SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - Three decades ago, playing in the NBA was a dream that only very few Africa-born players could turn into reality.
Now, the NBA has opened its doors to the world as never seen before.
And, Africa continues to make the most of the opportunity.
More remarkably is the fact that the 2015-16 NBA season, which tips off on Tuesday, will be unprecedented for the African continent.
There is no better indication of the NBA's popularity in Africa than the fact that 10 players born there and one General Manager are part of eight teams.
If we add second-generation African players to the list, then half of the league's teams can claim direct links to Africa.
It all started when the Houston Rockets selected Nigeria-born Hakeem Olajuwon with the first overall pick in the 1984 NBA draft.
Olajuwon, who later helped the USA win the 1996 Olympics, not only changed the Rockets history, leading them to consecutive NBA titles (1994 and 1995), but he became an inspirational basketball figure for millions across the African continent.
This past August, in Johannesburg, South Africa, the NBA hosted its first-ever exhibition game on the continent. Spain's Marc and Pau Gasol along with Chris Paul headlined Team World against a Team Africa that consisted of players who were either born in Africa or have at least one parent born on the continent.
The initiative was described as a 'historic day for NBA basketball in Africa'.
Now, with the upcoming season just around the corner, 10 Africa-born players will be part of the show.
It's an unprecedented figure, and for some of those players, basketball will never be the same again.
There is no memory of so many Africans entering the NBA in a single season, but Tunisia's Salah Mejri, Walter Tavares of Cape Verde, Emmanuel Mudiay who hails from the DR Congo and Senegalese Maurice Ndour form the new wave of Africa-born in the league.
They all made the final rosters, and will be joining Luol Deng, Luc Mbah a Moute, Bismack Biyombo, Serge Ibaka, Gorgui Dieng and Festus Ezeli.
Over the past few months, Mejri, Mudiay, Tavares and Ndour made difficult decisions, reminding us how demanding and hard working it is to enter the league.
While most would spend the off-season getting ready for Summer League camps, Mejri took to the court trying to help his country win a second AfroBasket title, but they fell short to Angola in the Semi-Finals.
A leg injury which forced him to sit out the Third-Place Game against Senegal almost compromised his pre-season.
However, on Sunday, the Dallas Mavericks announced that Mejri was part of the final roster and as a result he becomes the first North-Africa born player to enter the NBA.
On the other hand, Denver Nuggets new recruit Mudiay skipped his college career with Southern Methodist University (SMU) to play professionally in China before being selected seventh overall in last June's NBA draft.
The bold decision of travelling to the far east at the age of 18 generated heated debates about the point guard chances in the draft, however it turns out Mudiay is set to take Denver by storm.
Both Tavares and Ndour pulled out of their national team duties this past summer to focus on their NBA dream.
While their decisions to sit out AfroBasket 2015 paid off for them, Cape Verde and Senegal would have become a lot better with both players on their rosters.
After years of making its presence felt on the African continent through programmes such as Basketball without Borders (BWB), it's fair to tell that the NBA is in Africa to stay.