OAKLAND, Calif. — Kevin Durant hasn’t been the only showstopper in Oakland these playoffs.
On Sunday, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other NBA fans were asked to wait by an Oracle Arena security guard as another VIP departed: Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda.
A big NBA and Golden State Warriors fan, Kagame watched the Warriors’ 104-100 victory over the Houston Rockets in Game 1. Only after Kagame and his entourage were gone were Rice and others allowed to leave.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver was thankful for Kagame’s show of support.
“President Kagame and his family are very knowledgeable NBA fans, and we appreciate his support and that of other African leaders to grow the game across the continent,” Silver told The Undefeated.
Kagame was given tickets by the NBA, a league official confirmed. He was accompanied by about a dozen people, including his own personal security and Oracle Arena security, when he arrived during the first quarter, sources said. It was a scene reminiscent of the fashionably late arrivals of Prince, Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Rihanna that have caused commotions at Warriors games in recent seasons. A restroom was also cleared for Kagame to use during the game for safety reasons.
“That is cool that someone like that will show us some love,” Durant said to The Undefeated.
In August 2018, Kagame helped open the Giants of Africa camp in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, with Silver, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum and NBA Africa managing director and Sports for Education and Economic Development founder Amadou Fall.
“President Kagame shared with us that he is a strong proponent of using sports, and basketball in particular, as a platform to promote physical and mental well-being across the continent and that he also sees the sports industry as an economic engine for future growth in Africa,” Silver said.
Ujiri, a native of Nigeria, added that Kagame has been “key to the development of the game on the continent.”
“He’s always been a big fan of sports, but I think the past few years his interest and love for basketball has grown more and more,” Ujiri said. “I know he loved basketball when I talked to him one time and he said he had been watching our game at odd hours in Rwanda. He asked me about load management.”
Kagame also attended the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, as well as previous All-Star festivities in Los Angeles in 2018 and Toronto in 2016, a source said.
Rwanda is expected to have a professional club in the NBA’s new 12-team Basketball Africa League (BAL) when it debuts in January 2020. Silver said Kagame has shown the NBA plans for a new arena in Kigali that will be used as a home market for the BAL.
“When you talk about progressive and visionary,” Ujiri said, “that is President Kagame.”