Kings Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

September 6, 2008
Reef takes a respite in Africa

Reality will set in soon for Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

His body, as he said when the comeback began in earnest two months ago, will make the decision for him. The ailing right knee that was operated on for the second time in six months last December either will or will not allow him to take part in October training camp. If not, retirement - and possibly a coaching career - could be on the horizon.

But on an 11-day trip to Africa that concludes on Monday and stretched from Senegal to South Africa, Abdur-Rahim said he was reminded how fortunate he is no matter what his future holds. While taking part in the same "Basketball Without Borders" program that brought Kevin Martin and Ron Artest there last summer, Abdur-Rahim witnessed poverty and struggles that provided rich perspective.

"We have poverty in America, a lot of poor people," the Kings forward said by phone from South Africa. "But this is real poverty around here. It makes you extremely appreciative. It's the simple things you take for granted, like running water, a bathroom...You take the worst projects you've been to in the states and nothing compares to this."

Abdur-Rahim said his physical progress remains frustratingly "slow," and that he's "going to sit down and focus on that when I get back." Asked if he's decided whether he'll be able to take part in training camp, he said, "I haven't made a decision, but when I get back I will."
Yet his uncertain future was forgotten while he learned about the past of his people in Africa. The 31-year-old who has been honored as an active and charitable member of the African-American community visited Goree' Island in Senegal, the place where, as Abdur-Rahim said, "60 million or so slaves were shipped off over a 300-year period."
"You read about (slavery), but to actually see this place and visit the actual quarters and areas where they held the slaves is different," he said. "They had this 'Door of no Return,' a tunnel where you look down the tunnel and all you see is the ocean. That was moving to me."
In between helping build homes with Habitat for Humanity and coaching at a basketball camp with some of the top youth players in Africa, Abdur-Rahim also visited the Apartheid Museum in South Africa. He said the most memorable aspect of the trip was the prevailing spirit of the impoverished people.
"The amazing thing to me more than anything else is people's spirit," he said. "Their spirit is unbelievable. Children are laughing and playing and happy. When I was in Senegal, it's a tough situation. The people were just sitting around and laughing and joking and playing.
"If you're not from there, you look at the conditions and say 'Wow.' But
To see how people's spirits are and how family situations are, that's a lesson. It's kind of like you're learning from them. I was touched by the situation."
Before leaving for his trip, Abdur-Rahim said he was watching the Democratic National Convention with a keen eye. While the NBA's efforts can only help so much, he said he's optimistic a change of political party in the White House could help with relief at home and abroad.
"I think people see in (Barack Obama) a sensitivity for people, for humanity," he said. "I think maybe that's something that has been lost...In our own country you have some of the bad conditions people are in. And if you don't have any type of sensitivity for people being in those bad conditions, then you're out of touch with the people. That goes for our country and worldwide."

***

For a look back at how trips to Africa affected Kevin Martin and Ron Artest last summer, click on the old stories below.

Africa Martin.mht">Martin's trip

Artest Africa.mht">Artest's trip - Sam Amick

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