At dusk on this warm evening, Phillip ‘The Time Bomb’ Ndou was ready to go off. In a red gown with white flowing frills, he felt like a king. He danced his way to the ring with the chutzpah of a boxer at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. But this was Thohoyandou, in rural Limpopo, in South Africa, 500 kilometers north of Johannesburg and a million miles from the rest of the world. Through a cacophony of ululations and chants in Tshivenda, Ndou stepped into the ring for the first time in his hometown after a lifetime as a professional.
Boxing fans journeyed from Johannesburg for this fight that is in the heart of the Venda people. People from these parts are accustomed to a different type of boxing, called musangwe, hosted by the Venda king in Gaba Village, near Thohoyandou, every December. Musangwe is tough bare-knuckle boxing with no weigh-in restrictions. This is where Ndou landed his first punch as a young boy growing up in Golgotha Section, a few kilometers from Thohoyandou.
“I have always wanted to fight at home but that never happened for almost 20 years. My manager and promoter, Promise [Moyo], made it possible for me to live my dream,”
Moyo, a civil servant for 15 years, is now the director of Skylon Promotions that promotes Ndou and four other professional boxers.
“Here is the man with 40 fights but he never fought in front of his people as a professional. His mother, Margaret Nemukula, couldn’t believe it was really happening since there had been many speculations that Phillip is fighting at home but those ended up in disappointments,” says Moyo.
When it happened, it was worth it. The 38-year-old former South African WBA and international WBC junior lightweight champion sent the crowd into a frenzy, at Thohoyandou Town Hall, as he knocked down the Tanzanian slugger, Ramadhani Shauri, in the fourth round. Referee Grace Mahosi ended the eight-round bout when Ndou floored the 23-year-old Shauri for the second time, seconds later. All night, the visitor showed scant respect for Ndou. Against Ndou’s fervent supporters, Shauri had only his trainer Yassin Abaallaa and stablemate Lulu Kayage, a female fighter who won earlier against Lillian Mphahlele, for company.
On August 9, Women’s Day in South Africa to remember a march on parliament in 1956, Ndou’s win was a fitting celebration for his mother. She was in the crowd, with other women from their village. They dressed in colorful Venda traditional clothing to watch their son fighting at home for the first time.
It was a journey that led him in a wide circle. Ndou turned professional after boxing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, where he lost to Somluck Kamsing of Thailand, who won gold.
Another world title-holder, Ledwaba was in his corner. Ledwaba lost his IBF bantamweight belt to Manny Pacquiao, who stood in as a last minute replacement.
“It was not an easy fight, Ramadhani can crack… I didn’t struggle, but I didn’t know him so I had to read him first. I know my people don’t want to see me standing on the ropes, but when I’m on the ropes I’m more dangerous. From here, I am challenging for the IBF title. I want to say thank you very much to mothers, to the fans, to my promoter,” says Ndou.
This was Ndou’s fifth win on the trot. He is the only African to have fought undefeated world champion Floyd Mayweather. He lost to Mayweather in 2003, at Grand Rapids in Michigan, in the United States. That night, Ndou was ill advised by his trainer Nick Durandt that Mayweather was a coward who would run if hit.
This has been a long comeback from a brain injury Ndou sustained in 2004. It was so bad that a doctor, and Durandt, advised him to stop boxing. In 2009, Ndou was back, knocking out a Frenchman Rachid Drilzane in France. He lost to his cousin, Lovemore Ndou, who is now based in Australia, a few months later in Johannesburg.
Back in Thohoyandou, Abaallaa says his boxer’s loss was down to a lucky punch. He commended Ndou’s experience in surviving Ramadhani’s barrage of punches.
“I would like a rematch because I believe Ndou used his experience to win, he was out-performed – he is not a good boxer that can make us fear him, there’s nothing left in him… you were all quiet from round one to the third. But the lucky punch in the fourth round changed the course of the fight,” says Abaallaa.
But Abaallaa’s wish is unlikely. Ndou has set his sights on the International Boxing Federation Continental African title against Kenyan James Onyango Omogo, in December. Omogo is three years younger than Ndou and has battled through 30 fights.
Ndou may have danced into the ring, but he took many head and body blows from the youthful Ramadhani that he couldn’t dodge, at times he looked his age and a bit slow.
It’s been 12 years and scores of grueling fights since Ndou and Mayweather traded blows in Michigan. They have one thing in common. They both think they have one fight left in their wobbly legs.
Theirs is a story of how cruel the fight game is. Mayweather cruises through life on his millions, Ndou scrapes by at Thohoyandou Town Hall for his next pay check. It’s hard to believe they were both up and coming princes who once shared the same ring.
The Springboks And The Cup Of Good Hope
After their epic win beating England at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan on November 2, the Springboks returned home to South Africa, undertaking a nation-wide tour, in an open-top bus, holding high the Webb Ellis Cup. In this image, in the township of Soweto, they pass the iconic Vilakazi Street with throngs of screaming, cheering residents and Springbok fans lining the street. The sport united the racially-divided country. For the third time in history, the South African national rugby team was crowned world champions.
Image by Motlabana Monnakgotla
Déjà vu: South Africa Back to Winning
Our Publisher reflects on the recent Springbok victory in Yokohoma, Japan
By Rakesh Wahi, Publisher
Rugby is as foreign to me as cricket is to the average American. However, having lived in South Africa for 15 years, there is no way to avoid being pulled into the sport. November 2, 2019, is therefore a date that will be celebrated in South Africa’s sporting posterity. In many ways, it’s déjà vu for South Africans; at a pivotal time in history, on June 24, 1995, the Springboks beat the All Blacks (the national rugby team of New Zealand) in the final of the World Cup. The game united a racially-divided country coming out of apartheid and at the forefront of this victory was none other than President Nelson Mandela or our beloved Madiba. In a very symbolic coincidence, 24 years later, history repeated itself.
South Africans watched with pride as Siya Kolisi lifted the gold trophy in Yokohama, Japan, as had Francois Pienaar done so 24 years ago in Johannesburg. My mind immediately reflected on this extremely opportune event in South Africa’s history.
The last decade has not been easy; the country has slipped into economic doldrums from which there seems to be no clear path ahead. The political transition from the previously corrupt regime has not been easy and it has been disheartening to see a rapid deterioration in the economic condition of the country. The sad reality is that there literally seems to be no apparent light at the end of the tunnel; with blackouts and load-shedding, a currency that is amongst the most volatile in the world, rising unemployment and rising crime amongst many other issues facing the country.
Something needed to change. There was a need for an event to change this despondent state of mind and the South African rugby team seems to have given a glimmer of hope that could not have come at a more opportune time. As South African flags were flying all over the world on November 2, something clicked to say that there is hope ahead and if people come together under a common mission, they can be the change that they want to see.
Isn’t life all about hope? Nothing defies gravity and just goes up; Newton taught us that everything that goes up will come down. Vicissitudes are a part of life and the true character of people, society or a nation is tested on how they navigate past these curve balls that make us despair. As we head into 2020, it is my sincere prayer that we see a new dawn and a better future in South Africa with renewed vigor and vitality.
Talking about sports and sportsmen, there is another important lesson that we need to take away. Having been a sportsman all my life, I have had a belief that people who have played team sports like cricket, rugby, soccer, hockey etc make great team players and leaders. However, other sports like golf, diving and squash teach you focus. In all cases, the greatest attribute of all is how to reset your mind after adversity. While most of us moved on after amateur sports to find our place in the world, the real sportspeople to watch and learn from are professionals. It is their grit and determination.
My own belief is that one must learn how to detach from a rear view mirror. You cannot ignore what is behind you because that is your history; you must learn from it. Our experiences are unique and so is our history. It must be our greatest teacher. However, that’s where it must end. As humans, we must learn to break the proverbial rear view mirror and stop worrying about the past. You cannot change what is behind you but you can influence and change what is yet to come.
I had the good fortune of playing golf with Chester Williams (former rugby player who was the first person of color to play for the Springboks in the historic win in 1995 and sadly passed away in September 2019) more than once at the SuperSport Celebrity Golf Shootout.
Chester played his golf fearlessly; perhaps the way he led his life. He would drive the ball 300 meters and on occasion went into the woods or in deep rough. Psychologically, as golfers know, this sets you back just looking at a bad lie, an embedded or unplayable ball or a dropped shot in a hazard. For a seasoned golfer, it is not the shot that you have hit but the one that you are about to hit. Chester has a repertoire of recovery shots and always seemed to be in the game even after some wayward moments. There is a profound lesson in all of this. You have to blank your mind from the negativity or sometimes helplessness and bring a can do and positive frame of reference back into your game (and life). Hit that recovery shot well and get back in the game; that’s what champions do.
We need to now focus our attention on the next shot and try and change the future than stay in the past.
The NBA’s Highest-Paid Players 2019-20: LeBron James Scores Record $92 Million
NBA salaries have skyrocketed in recent years, but the biggest stars have earned more off the court than on it to this point in their careers. LeBron James, who tops the ranking for the 2019-2020 season, has made more than twice as much from endorsements than his $270 million in playing salary over his first 16 years. Kevin Durant’s on-court earnings of $187 million in 12 seasons is dwarfed by his current ten-year, $275 million Nike deal.
At $92 million, including salary and endorsements, James is the NBA’s highest-paid player for the sixth straight year. It is a record haul for an active basketball player. Nike is his biggest backer, and the company is naming a new research lab at its Beaverton, Oregon, corporate campus after James. Last month, the 17th iteration of his Nike signature shoe, the LeBron XVII, hit stores.
The four-time NBA MVP added a pair of endorsement deals in 2019 with Rimowa luggage and Walmart, which joined Coca-Cola, Beats By Dre, Blaze Pizza and NBA 2K in his sponsorship stable.
He also has a budding digital media company, Uninterrupted, and a production firm, SpringHill Entertainment, which will release a sequel to the 1996 Michael Jordan vehicle Space Jam in conjunction with Warner Bros. in 2021. All of the off-court work is worth an estimated $55 million for James this season.
The Los Angeles Lakers star’s comments about the NBA’s geopolitical mess in China also reveal the precarious position everyone in the league is in as political unrest in Hong Kong shows no signs of abating.
As the league’s 74th regular season tipped off Tuesday night, the NBA was still reeling from the crisis set off by a tweet from Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters.
Commissioner Adam Silver backed Morey’s right to free speech, but some players didn’t, including James, who called Morey “misinformed or not really educated” on the situation. “We love China,” said Rockets point guard James Harden.
It was a rare misstep for two of the league’s more media-savvy stars, both of whom have close ties to China. Adidas, which has Harden as the face of its basketball business, generated more revenue in China last year than in North America, and the Rockets are China’s most popular team after drafting native son Yao Ming in 2002.
Nike’s China revenue topped $6 billion during the last fiscal year, and the country is a growth leader for the brand. James has represented Nike on 15 off-season trips to China. The sports giant pays James more than $30 million annually to pitch its products around the globe.
And the threat of losing its growth trajectory in China could have far-reaching consequences for team valuations.
But back at home, the financials of NBA franchises remain solid, which is good for player salaries. The league’s salary cap is soaring, fueled largely by the nine-year, $24 billion TV deal with ESPN and TNT signed in 2014.
NBA players are entitled to 51% of the league’s “basketball-related income” as laid out in the collective bargaining agreement. The rich TV deal and budding international business means 46 players will earn a playing salary of at least $25 million this season, according to Spotrac. The $25 million club had zero members five years ago. And unlike in the NFL, every dollar is guaranteed upon signing.
On-court salaries in the NBA are capped based on a player’s number of years in the league and accolades earned in cases in which an award like MVP entitles them to a bigger percentage of a team’s salary cap.
So the pecking order for the elite stars is ultimately determined by their off-court income, with the shoe deal the biggest component of those earnings. There are ten active NBA players who will make at least $10 million from their shoe contracts this year, by Forbes’ count.
Stephen Curry comes in at No. 2 on the earnings list this year and is expected to generate $85 million this season, including $45 million off the court. Under Armour represents nearly half of his off-court income.
Curry’s $40.2 million salary from the Golden State Warriors is the highest in the history of the NBA; he’s in the third season of the five-year, $201 million contract he signed in 2017. Curry’s production company, Unanimous Media, has a development deal with Sony Pictures.
Unanimous’ first movie, Breakthrough, was released in April, with Curry playing a role in marketing the Christian-oriented film, which grossed $50 million on a $14 million budget.
Durant has the NBA’s second-biggest annual shoe contract after James’ at an estimated $26 million this season. His total earnings from his playing salary and endorsements is $73 million. Nike sells more KD shoes in China than in North America, according to Durant’s business partner Rich Kleiman.
Like James and Curry, Durant has his own production company, which is co-producing a new basketball-themed drama, Swagger, that is inspired by Durant’s youth basketball experience and will air on the Apple TV+ streaming service.
The NBA’s ten highest-paid players are expected to earn a cumulative $600 million this year, including $250 million from endorsements, appearances, merchandise and media.
Lillard signed a four-year, $196 million supermax extension in July with the Portland Trail Blazers that kicks in for the 2021-2022 season. The final year is worth $54.25 million for the 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year and four-time All-Star. Lillard’s Adidas shoe deal is worth roughly $10 million annually.
The “Greek Freak” is eligible for a five-year, $248 million contract extension next summer with the Milwaukee Bucks. It would be the richest deal in the history of the sport. In June, Nike unveiled the first signature shoe, Zoom Freak 1, for the 2019 NBA MVP.
Only Curry will earn more on the court this season than Paul, who was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in July. Paul was an early investor and ambassador for Beyond Meat, whose stock price has quadrupled since its initial public offering in May.
Thompson’s coach, Steve Kerr, says the sharpshooter is likely to miss the entire season after tearing his ACL during the NBA Finals in June. But he’ll still collect his full $32.7 million salary—almost double last year’s—under the first season of the five-year, $190 million pact he signed in July. Thompson is the basketball face of Chinese shoe brand Anta.
Irving joins his third team in four years this season. His four-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets is worth $136 million and includes an additional $4.3 million in potential incentives. A viral Pepsi ad campaign featuring Irving as the elderly Uncle Drew eventually led to a 2018 feature film; Irving has partial ownership of the character. Irving is another Beyond Meat investor.
The 2018 NBA MVP purchased a minority stake in the Houston Dynamo of MLS this summer for $15 million. Harden also holds equity stakes in BodyArmor, Stance socks and Art of Sport. His salary with the Rockets jumps $8 million this season with the start of a contract extension he signed in 2017.
Westbrook’s five-year, $207 million contract is the largest deal in the NBA right now. The eight-time All Star extended his deal with Nike’s Jordan brand in 2017 for another ten years and in 2018 received his first signature shoe, the Why Not Zer0. Westbrook has averaged a triple-double for three straight seasons.
Durant is likely to miss the entire season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in June during the NBA Finals. He’ll still pocket his full first-year salary from the Brooklyn Nets under the four-year, $164 million deal he signed in July. He’s invested in more than 30 startups, including Postmates and investing app Acorns.
The two-time MVP used some of his hoops money in June to buy a $31 million home in Atherton, California, with his wife, Ayesha. He also made a seven-figure donation this summer to Howard University to help launch a golf program at the school and recently signed an endorsement partnership with Callaway Golf. Curry became the only player to win the NBA MVP unanimously when he won his second of back-to-back awards in 2016.
James signed an endorsement in 2019 with Walmart that is rooted in community work. He worked with the retail giant on its Fight Hunger. Spark Change. initiative, as well as the company’s back-to-school campaign. James is part of an investment group that owns 19 Blaze Pizza franchises across Illinois and Florida.
-Forbes; Kurt Badenhausen
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