In a conversation with Ghanaian former pro player trailblazing the frontiers of NBA, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, talks about his journey to professional basketball stardom and his hopes for the Basketball Africa League.
Pops Mensah Bonsu, a former pro payer leading the front desk in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and European leagues opens up about when his professional basketball fame first kicked off and the future of the Basketball Africa League.
The General Manager of the Capital City Go-Go disclosed that he didn’t take basketball seriously at first, partly because the game wasn't as exciting as other sports.
"For me, I was impressionable," . I was young; all my friends played soccer and ran track. That's what I really wanted to do."
Born and raised in London, England, the former pro player and native Ghanaian grew up playing soccer and running track.
His older brother started playing basketball, a relatively invisible sport compared to soccer, when he was about 16 in the early 90s and eventually moved to the U.S. on a scholarship.
Mensah-Bonsu says that when his parents witnessed his brother's experience, they took it as an opportunity for the rest of their children to do the same, allowing them to have a better opportunity to succeed.
He was introduced to basketball by his father, who took him to the other side of London, where he started developing his skills.
After juggling the three sports with basketball on the back burner, he eventually realized his potential once he made the move stateside himself as a teen.
Making a name for himself as a student-athlete at George Washington University, his work ethic led him to a professional career in both the NBA, playing for the likes of the Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Toronto Raptors as well as internationally, playing for clubs in Spain, France, Turkey, Russia and Italy.
Retiring at 32, Mensah-Bonsu is still a part of the game, but on the decision-making side.
He currently serves as the Capital City Go-Go's general manager of the G League which is the official minor league of the NBA in Washington, D.C., where he's trying to blaze a trail for more diversity and inclusion in the NBA front office.
"I really want to do my best and succeed at this next level because I know how profound and impactful it can be if it's done well," Mensah said.
He explained that: "I put pressure on myself to work extra hard to make sure I can get to this position where I can have that impact on these guys and show them a mirror image of themselves and show them how possible it is."
Pops Mensah-Bonsu revealed he was shocked when his father first told him that he was going to the States to attend a private school in Princeton.
''It was a new world when I arrived in the US, a new territory for me but I was so excited to be in the U.S.’’
‘‘I just knew that whatever this brought, it would be a great opportunity. But basketball didn't start out as a success for me. I played JV and the coach tried to break me down a little bit. He told me I wasn't very good, but I always used that as motivation because I always knew that this opportunity would lead to a lot of great things for me,’’ he added.
Mensah wasn't even considering the NBA at the time but knew if he just kept working hard one day he could probably get to that level in regards to at least getting a scholarship.
He played for five different teams in the NBA and played pretty much in every country in Europe with a lot success stories in the G League, played college ball.
He retired a little earlier, at 32, and being one of the first Ghanaian players in the NBA, he is working at pursuing a dream to kick start a career on this side of the game and allow some players in general including African players, to see a mirror image of themselves in a position of leadership.
With the advent of the new professional basketball league on the continent, Mensah says he’s very passionate about this league being a success because: ‘‘I feel like we really have to understand that it's not just the league's name at stake. It's Africa in general. Whenever something goes awry, or it doesn't go to plan in Africa, people be like, "TIA." This is Africa, and I don't want that to be the case.’’
Mensah revealed that he dreams to have a successful professional team in Ghana.
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