Orlando Magic guard playing Victor Oladipo has not ruled out playing for Nigeria at the 2016 Rio Olympics men’s basketball event.
The NBA star was born in the United States of America to Nigerian parents and is eligible for both countries.
Nigeria’s D’Tigers qualified for their second straight Olympics after winning their first AfroBasket title in September.
The US will also be in Rio, where they will be favourites, and Oladipo is keeping his options open.
His chances of getting on the US roster are very slim, but not non-existent, although he will probably walk into the Nigerian team.
“Playing the Olympics is definitely a dream, but I’ll worry about it when the time comes. Right now, the focus is on winning games for the Orlando Magic,” Oladipo told nba.com. “At the end of the day, whatever (Olympic) opportunity appears on the table, it will be about making the right decision that’s best for me.”
Oladipo has blossomed into an NBA standout the past two seasons with the Magic after being the No.2 pick of the 2013 NBA Draft.
Oladipo’s growth as a player led to him being invited to play on the USA Basketball Select Team in Las Vegas in the summer of 2014, and he was back with Team USA for the squad’s mini-camp this past August.
Practicing with and against USA Basketball’s stars the past two summers has been a dream come true, Oladipo said. In addition to making him a better player, Oladipo said those experiences have enhanced his desire to play in the Olympics for Team USA.
“Being with Team USA after watching it my whole life, of course you dream of playing with a team like that and on that world stage,’’ he said. “Going out there and experiencing that, growing as a player and being around the best players in the world, that was definitely a humbling experience.”
Playing for Nigeria is an attractive option because Oladipo’s parents, Christopher and Joan Amanze Oladipo, were born and raised in Nigeria. They immigrated separately from Nigeria more than 25 years ago and were married in the U.S. Their only son’s official birth name is Kehinde Babatunde Victor Oladipo.
Oladipo is very proud of his Nigerian heritage and he said that his mother is very aware that her son could play for her native country.
“My mom obviously knows because she pays attention to stuff like that, but she’s never mentioned anything to me about it,’’ Oladipo said. “I just go out there and play basketball. Whatever decision comes, I’ll make that decision when I need to.’’
Coincidentally, the Magic’s training camp roster features two other players with Nigerian roots: Small forward Melvin Ejim, center Nnanna Egwu. The three of them have parents of African descent, but grew up in North America and they regularly talk about their Nigerian heritages.
“It’s pretty cool. We can relate to each other and talk about it,” Oladipo said of his teammates with Nigerian ties. “At the end of the day, I’m Nigerian and that’s the blood that runs through my veins. I was raised under that heritage, I eat the (Nigerian) food and I go to the parties. I’m a Nigerian-American at the end of the day.”