Former Orlando Magic star opens basketball facility, community center in Africa
ORLANDO, Fla. - As a former first round NBA draft pick, Mo Bamba has made his presence felt on the NBA court for years, but his impact now goes well beyond basketball.
The Mo Bamba Foundation unveiled a new basketball facility and community center in Abidjan, part of Africa’s Ivory Coast.
They also repaired electricity and plumbing throughout the village. Good Day Orlando's Ryan Elijah sat down with Bamba before he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers to talk about the experience.
"It wasn’t about me, it was about the kids. Every single one of them, how big or small I’ve impacted their lives, seeing their smiles really touched my heart", Mo Bamba said.
The trip to Africa was actually Bamba’s first trip to his parents' native country. Many of his family still live near the African village.
Bamba’s parents immigrated to America just before he was born in Harlem, a culture his parents instilled in him since he was born.
"I never really understood why, because we were living here in the states, I didn’t understand about learning about a place I’ve never been, but getting back here and experiencing it, it explains everything," Bamba said.
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Bamba's very proud father was there when he met African officials and talked about how the foundation would also offer daily tutoring for kids. "There's so many more opportunities, it doesn't have to be just about basketball."
The education aspect of the facility hits close to home for the former University of Texas star. Despite his basketball talent, he already had an academic scholarship by 9th grade, which he credits to after-school programs and the structure of team sports.
"Just going there and showing that we come from the same roots, showing them that if I can do it, you can do it, no matter where you grew up, where you came from or how you look," Bamba said.
Bamba also brought with him over 100 pairs of shoes from his Orlando Magic teammates. He’s hopeful this project will bring more opportunities for kids around the world, saying he’s blown away by celebrities and players wanting to do more.
"The biggest compliment is hearing from fellow NBA players, that you did a good job and I’d like to do that, I hope we can get opportunities for kids all over the world", Bamba said.
FOX 35 News communicated through a translator with Mahama Coulibaly, who said "the facility means more to their village than words can express", but he said it was the presence of Bamba in Africa that mean the most to the kids.
Bamba replied, "they just said ‘come back’. Yes, I was born in America, but you never forget your roots."
The Mo Bamba Foundation already has plans to add lights and bleachers to Mo Bamba Court in the future. The foundation has also helped with similar education programs in Harlem and Orlando.
Agent Greer Love traveled with Bamba to Abidjan.