Basketball Without Borders: One of these kids could be the next Thon or Giannis

Andy Withers
KweséESPN Senior Editor

“It’s not just a job. We have to have fun with it, and we definitely do.”

Khris Middleton is forthright when asked about the visible sense of fun and enjoyment among the NBA players on the opening day of the 2018 Basketball Without Borders Africa camp in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Indeed, the smiles of the NBA players at the American International School in Midrand were every bit as broad as those of the boys and girls they had travelled all this way to coach and mentor.

The Milwaukee Bucks swingman has been involved previously in international coaching programs, in the Philippines and Australia, where he headlined the Basketball Without Borders Asia camp in Melbourne three years ago, and he says NBA players recognize the need to give back to the game that makes them headline attractions.

“This isn’t a job for us,” Middleton says of his attendance of the program that officially ’embodies Nelson Mandela’s’ legacy and belief that sport can inspire and change the world.’

The 16th Basketball Without Borders Africa camp showcases 78 of the top boys and girls from 29 African countries.

“Each and every one of us has been through something. We’ve been scouted, we’ve been around NBA players, NBA cultures that’s helped us get to that next level, so it’s very nice to be in a position where I can do the same,” Middleton says. “We have to give back. We have to try to grow the game. We have to try to make the game better than it was when we came in … it’s a great job to have to try to spread the game, to spread joy, to help anybody out.”

Middleton has never before been to Africa, but he knows a little about the continent as he knows so well the stories of Milwaukee Bucks teammates Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker. The Greece-born Antetokounmpo is the son of immigrants from Nigeria, while Maker made his way to the NBA from the war zone in South Sudan via Australia, the Carlisle School in Martinsville, Virginia, and Canada.

“Giannis is definitely proud about his Nigerian heritage, with his mother and father being from there and immigrating to Greece, and … Thon’s a guy who’s bounced all over the world. Thon’s been through a lot, and he came out alive.

“Looking at these kids and knowing that one of them could be the next Thon Maker or Giannis Antetokounmpo is great,” Middleton says.

Not lost on Middleton is the fact that 28 previous Basketball Without Borders alumni have gone on to play in the NBA, including 2018 Team World teammate Danilo Gallinari and Team Africa’s Pascal Siakam and Joel Embiid.

“To talk to the kids and get everybody interactive and going, that’s what it’s about,” Middleton says. “This game can help to shape so many people, stay out of trouble, make new friends, it’s nice to be here.”

Middleton knows he’s here to coach and mentor, for community outreach and to build places to live. But there’s also the small matter of bragging rights at the third NBA Africa Game to be played in Pretoria on Saturday.

Team Africa is yet to taste success, and Middleton doesn’t want to be on the first losing Team World roster on his first visit to Africa.

“There’s been some comments about the game, and how [Team Africa] haven’t won yet, so Team World we have to do a great job to try to hold that streak and make it 3-0. We can’t lose this game.”

Photo: Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Jabari Parker agrees to deal with Bulls

By Blake Froling

Former Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker has agreed to a two-year, $40 million deal with the Chicago Bulls, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Bucks officially rescinded Parker’s qualifying offer today, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Parker averaged 12.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in 31 games last season with Milwaukee after recovering from his second ACL injury. In four seasons with the Bucks, Parker missed 143 games due to injury. A native of Chicago, Parker was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Wojnarowski also reported that the second year of the deal is a team option, mitigating the risk for the Bulls.

Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Greek Freak to be on cover of ‘NBA 2K19’

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is the cover athlete for the “NBA 2K19” standard-edition video game.

The two-time NBA All-Star known as the “Greek Freak” is the first international player to be featured on the cover.

Antetokounmpo said he has “worked hard to earn recognition in the NBA and being on the cover of NBA 2K19 is a dream come true.”

He also tweeted that he was “honored” to be the first international player to be on the video game’s cover.

“NBA 2K19” will be available Sept. 11.

LeBron James was previously announced as the cover star for the “NBA 2K19” 20th anniversary edition, which will be available on Sept. 7.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Commission calls for audit in arrest of Bucks’ Sterling Brown

Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission is calling for an audit of the stun gun arrest of Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown.

The commission wrote to Chief Alfonso Morales asking for the audit and all body-camera video of the arrest. Commissioners want the findings to be turned over to them and the Milwaukee Common Council.

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Police officers confronted Brown in January after he had parked illegally in a drugstore parking lot. Police video of the arrest shows officers swarming Brown and taking him down when he didn’t immediately take his hands out of his pockets as ordered.

Three officers involved in the arrest have been disciplined, with suspensions ranging from two to 15 days.

Brown’s attorney Mark Thomsen says he has delayed plans to file a federal lawsuit Friday.

Video: Police discuss backlash of arresting Sterling Brown

MILWAUKEE — Newly released police video of the stun gun arrest of Bucks guard Sterling Brown show one officer stepping on Brown’s ankle while he was handcuffed on the ground and others discussing the potential backlash of taking down a black professional basketball player.

The body camera and squad car videos, obtained by WISN-TV and posted online Sunday, show the moments after Milwaukee police officers swarmed Brown in January when he didn’t immediately take his hands out of his pockets as ordered. Brown had been standing and talking with a group of officers as he waited for a citation for illegally parking on a handicap spot outside a Walgreens.

Brown wasn’t charged with anything and three officers involved in the arrest were disciplined, with suspensions ranging from two to 15 days. Eight others will undergo remedial training in professional communications. Brown has said he plans to sue the department.

In one of the videos, Brown is on the ground and handcuffed when an officer puts one of his boots on Brown’s ankle, holding it there and at one point pressing down. Brown doesn’t mention being in any discomfort but he questions the officer about why he’s stepping on him.

“C’mon man, you’re stepping on my ankle for what?” Brown said. In response, the officer said he was trying to prevent Brown from kicking anyone.

Other videos obtained by WISN-TV show an officer talking with two others who are seated in a squad car as they explained they were trying to protect themselves during the arrest. They also talk about how they could be perceived as racist for arresting a black Bucks player, with one saying if anything goes wrong, it “is going to be, `Ooh, the Milwaukee Police Department is all racist, blah, blah, blah.”

Another video shows an officer in his squad car, calling to let a supervisor know he’ll need to be on overtime before singing, “Money, money, money, money, money …”

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales has apologized to Brown and on May 23 released body camera footage of the officer who initially contacted the basketball player outside the store.

The incident happened a month before Morales was appointed chief, following the retirement of Edward Flynn. Since becoming chief, Morales has pledged to improve the police department’s relationship with minorities and to be more transparent with cases of officer misconduct.

It’s unclear why the new videos were not released along with the first body camera footage. Sgt. Sheronda Grant, a police spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to that question Monday from The Associated Press.