Article was done by Victor Shakineza with Thierry Kita’s consent and input.
With the current climate of xenophobia in South Africa and intolerance around the world, it was refreshing to witness something special during the 2008 NBA playoffs. One early morning I was watching a Celtics game during the playoffs and I thought I heard something along the lines of “UBUNTU” but being in deep Africa, I told myself that maybe I needed to get my ears checked… Why would an NBA team be using an African term during the grueling playoffs? Then during the Boston Celtics vs. Atlanta Hawks series I heard the Celtic shout a word that sounded like “BUNTU” and this time I knew there was more to this story.
What does UBUNTU really mean(click on the link)
A few days before the penultimate game of the LA Lakers vs. Celtics series, I got some email correspondence with a bit of history behind the “UBUNTU” routine that the Celtics had adopted. I quickly realized that the person to speak to was Thierry Kita. So how does Thierry Kita fit into the Boston Celtics picture?
Above: Thierry Kita with the legendary Bill Russell
Thierry Kita has been involved with the Celtics for the past 4 seasons. This year, Doc Rivers (The Celtics coach) had just finished reading the Desmond Tutu book when he gave Thierry a call asking him for his opinion in using “UBUNTU” as the team motivator for the season. Thierry thought it was a good idea and without hesitation Doc asked him to start preparing for the teaching of “UBUNTU” and they would use it at their preseason camps, in Europe and Waltham Massachusetts.
Having lived in South Africa for the past 19 years, teaching the “UBUNTU” principles was part and parcel of Thierry Kita life considering this was also part of the life skills lessons taught at his work with Hoops 4 Hope. Thinking the job was half done, he now had to factor in the influence of the new recruits to the Boston Celtics franchise, namely Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. With the birth of Boston’s very own “Big Three”, there was plenty of media attention wherever the team went and the excitement was mounting around this new look Celtics.
These new developments made Thierry Kita a bit nervous at the beginning but after spending a lot of time around the players, the teaching went smoothly and the players quickly bought into it. Doc Rivers made the process easier by having a few of the rookie players read and present “UBUNTU” to the team. It was incredible to hear the team shouting: 1, 2, 3 UBUNTU during their time-outs.
Last but not least Thierry Kita has been credited with motivating the team during game 7 in Atlanta and during the pivotal game 4 in Los Angeles where a lot of the UBUNTU teachings were applied.
On a personal note: Most basketball players in South Africa have nothing to look forward to after high school and usually end up being lost to other careers, substance abuse, crime, etc… but this article goes to prove that South Africa has all the tools at its disposal to succeed; but the key is how we use them. The potential of this nation is endless but it’s meaningless if you don’t nurture it in the right way.
All pictures were supplied by Thierry Kita.