Just two years after basketball was invented in the United States in 1891, the game was exported to France. French stars like Tony Parker, Evan Fournier, and Joakim Noah have shown their talent in the NBA for decades and now, one of the NBA’s top overseas prospects of 2019 is from France.
The world’s oldest basketball court is nestled beneath one of Paris’ busiest streets, Rue de Trévise, in an old YMCA. Most of the gym — even the floorboards — were sent by boat to France in the early-1890s during a time when the countries were learning from one another (and gifting each other things, like the Statue of Liberty). Interestingly, when basketball first arrived in France it was prescribed to women and girls as a great source of physical exercise.
And France has been focused on sports, particularly basketball, for ages. France’s National Institute of Sport and Physical Education (INSEP) was founded in 1975 and offers a holistic approach to sports education at a campus where students are able to live like teenagers with facilities for recovery, education, and training. There, hoopers learn to play French basketball — that means sharing the ball.
Now, a young hooper by the name of Sekou Doumbouya — a product of the INSEP system — is following the footsteps of the French NBA stars that came before him. At 17 years old, Doumbouya is 6’9″ with a serious highlight reel that has garnered worldwide attention. He is projected to go top five in the 2019 NBA Draft, perhaps the best class to ever bang on the doors of the NBA.
To learn more about Doumbouya, French basketball, and what makes the game over there so special, check out VICE Sports’ latest documentary.