Mohamed Bamba was born to play basketball. Picture: Chris Covatta/Getty Images
Mohamed Bamba was born to play basketball. Picture: Chris Covatta/Getty Images

Mo Bamba is the NBA’s newest 'alien'

THERE'S one thing NBA superstars Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert all have in common, but Mo Bamba beats them all.

The reigning NBA finals MVP (Durant), 2018 NBA MVP finalist (Davis), defensive player of the year favourite (Gobert) and the "Greek Freak" (Antetokounmpo) all have wingspans that could rival a bald eagle.

In a league filled with the world's greatest athletes, having long arms has become arguably the most valuable physical trait.

"It's much more important than your height," Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr says.

It enables Gobert (whose wingspan measures 236cm), Davis (226cm), Durant (223cm) and Antetokounmpo (221cm) to shoot over defenders, cut off passing lanes and block shots other players simply can't reach.

In many ways these four stars begin each game with an unfair advantage over their opposition.

But there's another thing they all have in common. They don't measure up to Bamba.

That's right, the land of the super-freaks is facing the introduction of a new type of alien.

The New York City native - who is tipped to be one of the first five selections in next month's draft - just created history with a wingspan measurement of 239cm at the NBA Combine.

Mamba is 213cm tall in sneakers but his standing reach is a monstrous 293cm. He can stretch his hand within seven centimetres of the ring, without even leaving the ground.

If you need one photograph to sum up the advantage the 20-year-old enjoys on a basketball court it's the one below of him grabbing a rebound against Nevada in the first round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Bamba's arm isn't even fully extended but no one else is even getting as high as his wrist as he plucks the ball out of the air.

Rebounding against Mo just ain’t fair. Picture: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
Rebounding against Mo just ain’t fair. Picture: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

But don't peg him as a Shawn Bradley type who only going to be of value right under the rim. Bamba can move.

His scouting report on ESPN.com includes phrases such as "incredible grace and fluidity", "the ability to run the floor like a deer" and "a huge defensive weapon in full court situations because of his length and ability to cover the court so effortlessly".

He is now being measured up by every team with a top 10 draft pick.

"Just an incredible human being," the Dallas Mavericks' president of basketball operations, Donnie Nelson, told the Dallas News.

"Everyone can see what he brings to the table in terms of length and athleticism. You talk about a very, very well-put-together young man. He's pretty impressive."

But if you listen to Mamba, he'll no longer be on the board when the Mavs pick at five, even though Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley are widely considered the top picks in this draft class.

"I think you guys will see more and more as the draft (gets closer) that I'm right there with those guys and I should be the No. 1 pick," he said.

"I feel I'm the most efficient guy in this class, the safest pick."

Doesn’t even need to jump. Picture: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Doesn’t even need to jump. Picture: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Bamba's parents hail from West Africa, but he grew up on the streets of Harlem.

He fell in love with the game as a six-year-old watching street-ball legends play on a gritty court,  known as the Kingdome, on 115th St.

It's where former NBA players such as Rafer Alston and Ron Artest used to put on a show for packed crowds, and where Bamba felt protected - and honed his ability to protect the rim.

"It's right on the block where I grew up," Bamba told Prep Live.

"It was kind of the safe haven where I live. Harlem isn't the safest place in the world."

"To me, offence wins games but defence will win championships," he added.

"I just take pride in playing defenxe. Where I come from, if you get scored on three times in a row, you are not playing the next game."

He starred in high school at Westtown, where coach Seth Berger saw a talent he knew would go pro one day.

"He could score zero points and literally dominate a game," Berger said in 2017.

"He is not close to a project. He is going to college because the rules say he can't go right to the NBA. He is ready to play in the NBA today."

In his one season of college basketball at Texas he averaged 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.

Now he's ready to soar in the NBA.



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