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‘I wish to play for Lakers’: Despite war, Cameroonian dreams of playing in NBA

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When conflict broke out in Cameroon’s northwest region, many things ground to a halt but not Kennedy Nkwain’s dream of playing in the NBA.

Without proper facilities, the 20 year-old trains using makesift equipment, and techniques he’s taught himself from watching video clips of professional players doing their drills.

Sometimes Nkwain has to abandon training altogether and run to safety as government forces and rebels exchange gunfire.

On this day, he squeezes his muscular body in between car tires he uses as training props, flinching as explosions ring from the jungle not far from a dusty basketball court in Bamenda, capital of Cameroon’s northwest region.

“Since the beginning of the crisis in my country and that’s been going on, I started training because I wanted my dream to come true. To give kids hope that it doesn’t matter where you come, you can achieve what you want,” said Nkwain.

“Because it is not just about basketball here in the northwest region. There is a lot of talent of talent here, football, volley and others but kids are giving up because of where they come from and Covid-19 pandemic. So I just want to use basketball as a platform to inspire other people to work hard to achieve their dreams,” he added.

Nkwain has turned a former store room into a gym where he works out to stay in shape. Some of his peers in the north and southwest regions have joined rebels fighting for self rule.

But Nkwain’s sweat is in pursuit of a basket ball dream.

“My dream from Day one was to play in the NBA and always been that. The NBA team I wish to play for is the LA Lakers. It is because LeBron James inspires me a lot. I just want to learn a little bit about his mentality before he retires from the game. I just want to get that little piece of what he has, what makes him great,” he said.

There are so many odds standing in Nkwain’s way but his aspirations are too big he can’t sit down.

If Nkwain makes it to the NBA, he will fellow countryman and Philadelphia forward Joel Embiid in the world’s most important basketball league.

Crisis in Cameroon’s Anglphone regions

In 2017, protests by teachers and lawyers in Cameroon’s two English speaking regions over marginalization quickly morphed into armed conflict.

Separatist rebels calling themselves ‘Amba boys’ have said they seek to create an independent state named Ambazonia.

Many people have been killed in the conflict which hasl also driven hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Amnesty International has accused both government forces and rebel troops of committing atrocities.