12 August 2017

Kenya: NBA Star On His Kenyan Family Ties

He knows a few words like niaje, nyama choma, poa kabisa and Cucu .He is in Kenya at least once every year and he doesn't need to announce whenever he is around because this is a second home for him and the children.

If you are a basketball fan, then you are aware of Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks player in America's National Basketball Association (NBA) player, who is without a doubt one of the greatest "power forwards" of all time. He is the Mavericks' all-time leading scorer and has won Most Valuable Player several times and International Basketball Federation Europe Player of the Year.

He is currently the sixth highest scorer in NBA history having made more than 30,000 points through his 20-year career. He is also one of only two players left in the NBA from the 1998 draft.

Nowitzki, who is German, is married to Kenyan-born Jessica Olsson -- the daughter of a Kenyan mother and Swedish father. Though she was raised in Sweden, she keeps her Kenyan identity and even made headlines when she decided to bring her superstar husband to Kenya for "ruracio" (traditional Kikuyu dowry payment) in July 2012.

Nowitzki told American sports website The Undefeated: "It was awesome. They took my wife away. They brought five or six girls out and they were all covered. The first thing I had to do was find my wife. So, I'm walking around and looking at how tall they are.

"I guess it's one of the traditions. If you get it wrong, you got to pay the parents a goat or something. I was lucky I smelled her to find the right one. But that was just an experience that I'll never forget."

Their wedding in the US was a low-key affair and it was reported by ESPN that the ceremony was conducted by State District Judge Craig Smith who said that he performed a July 20 wedding at the Nowitzkis home in the posh Preston Hollow section of Dallas. They then headed to the Caribbean where the judge said they were to go through another ceremony attended by close family members.

Jessica, who currently works as the associate director of Dallas' Goss-Michael Foundation Art Gallery, has twin brothers -- Marcus Jonas Munuhe Olsson, a Swedish professional footballer who plays in the United Kingdom for Derby County Football Club and Martin Tony Waikwa Olsson who plays for Swansea City.

Martin joined Swansea in January, signing a two-and-a-half-year deal with an option for another season. The left-back spent six years at Ewood Park before moving to Norwich City in 2013, and went on to make 129 appearances for the Canaries.On the international stage, Olsson made his Sweden debut back in 2010, and played for his national side at Euro 2012 and Euro 2016.He has scored five goals at international level and netted 10 times in a total of 270 appearances for Blackburn and Norwich.


Nowitzki, 39, spoke to Lifestyle in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he was attending the NBA Africa Game last week. But he passed by Kenya where he stayed in Nanyuki at his in-laws for a week.

"We came to Kenya to see cucu," he says, perfectly pronouncing the Kikuyu word for "grandmother". "We just came straight from Kenya (to South Africa), my wife has a lot of family from there, uncles, aunts... we were there for over a week travelling."

Nowitzki says he did not get a chance to travel as much as he had hoped because of the short time they were in Kenya, but he tries to do as much sight-seeing as he can whenever he brings his family over. Often, his visits are low-key, despite being one of the biggest names in basketball with a huge fan base across the world built over his remarkable two-decade professional career.

"Last year we were in Mombasa, we have been basically all over the place. I love the diverse nature that is in Kenya, be it in Nairobi or the Mount Kenya region which is very cold right now," he says.

Nowitzki explains that he finds it important to expose the children - two boys and a girl - to "their heritage" be it in Kenya, Germany or in Dallas where he lives and plies his trade. His first-born daughter is named Malaika.

But is any of them exhibiting love for the game that has made their father famous and very rich?

"They are still young, the oldest just turned four but hopefully one day they will pick up a basketball and enjoy it. But I want them to grow up and make their own decisions. If they don't like basketball, it is fine," says Nowitzki.

The NBA star and "Jess" -- as he refers to his wife during the interview -- met in 2010 at a charity event and, according to The Undefeated, Nowitzki was tricked into raising his hand during an auction that resulted in him making a major donation in exchange for a painting by Cuban-born artist Rolando Diaz.


"He also agreed to go on two dates for charity. But he was also hoping to get a real date with a beautiful woman he met that night named Jessica Olsson, who was working at a Dallas art gallery."

Asked why he fell in love with her, he says: "First, she's got to be attractive. That's obviously part of it. And I think we just clicked intellectually. She likes art, she likes sports, she grew up around sports. We both love tennis and we love to travel. We both love kids and family."

Nowitzki told The Undefeated that he has never experienced any racial comments regarding him and his wife.

"Everybody that's met my wife has said she's great with me. So I haven't heard any of that to my face. I'm sure there's some people that think of it to themselves," he says.

As for his future in the NBA, the seven-foot Nowitzki is at the twilight of his career and recently signed a two-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks which will see him join Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers superstar, as the only players to have played for the same team for 20 seasons.

Everyone seems to have their watches and calendars out trying to see how long Nowitzki still has before he calls it a day.

"I signed on for two more years this summer so we just wait and see how the season goes," he told Lifestyle.

"Last season for the first time, I almost missed two months with some Achilles problem and hopefully that is behind me and I can play some decent basketball. I am still having fun, hopefully my body can hold up for a few more years and then it is time for the younger guys to take over," he says.


Nowitzki was part of several top NBA stars who were in South Africa for a one week basketball clinic with more than 80 boys and girls from across Africa. The climax of the visit was an all-star NBA Africa game on August 5.

The NBA stars comprised two sides: "Team Africa", made up of players of African heritage and "Team World" that was drawn from the US and other areas.

Team Africa, captained by South Sudan-born star Luol Deng ( Los Angeles Lakers) also included Serge Ibaka (Toronto Raptors), Emmanuel Mudiay (Denver Nuggets), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Thabo Sefolosha (Utah Jazz), Bismack Biyombo (Orlando Magic) , Clint Capela (Houston Rockets) and Dennis Schroder (Atlanta Hawks).

Nowitzki was the captain of Team World which had DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans Pelicans), Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons), Kristaps Porzingis (New York Knicks), Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors) and CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers).

The Dallas Mavericks star told Lifestyle he was happy to be in South Africa, adding that he had seen a lot of the positives from the basketball programme.

"First time I came in 2009, Gorgui Dieng (Senegalese professional basketball player for the Minnesota Timberwolves) was a participant and MVP of the programme. I shook his hand and then I saw him in college and next thing he was in the NBA. This is a fantastic programme and these kids get to learn a lot as they develop their shots, ball handling and understand the game," says Nowitzki.

He says the future looks bright for the programme and basketball in Africa. "Back in 2009, it was a lot smaller and we played outdoors and now there is a lot of hype around the game and camp and it is really encouraging. I hope some of these kids will get to go on, get an education and hopefully see them in the NBA."


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