Ime Udoka is a former NBA player who now works as a basketball coach. The Nigerian American started playing professionally as a small forward in 2002 but has since become the 18th head coach of the Boson Celtic in the NBA. In addition to the fame he gained from his playing and coaching career, he is known for being the long-time fiancee of American actress Nia Long with whom he has a son.
1. Ime Udoka was Born to an American Mother and Nigerian Father in the USA
Ime Udoka was born on August 9, 1977, in Portland, Oregon. He was raised in his birth city by his parents; a Nigerian father and an American mother. His father, Vitalis Udoka, who died after a massive heart attack around 2006/2007, is a Nigerian of the Ibibio ethnic group of Akwa Ibom State. Udoka’s mother, Agnes, on the other hand, is a native of Illinois and she passed away in 2011.
Udoka is not the only child birthed by his parents; he was raised with his elder sister Mfon Udoka and elder brother James Udoka. Unfortunately, James’s occupation and what he is up to at this time are unknown. This is not the case for Mfon who is a former professional basketball player.
Mfon played in the WNBA and for the Nigerian national team. She subsequently worked as a coach, once serving as the assistant coach of the Nigeria Women’s National Basketball Team, D’Tigress.
2. He Began Playing Basketball in High School
Just like most American basketball players, Ime Udoka started playing basketball at a young age. He played the sport at Jefferson High School before doing so at a higher level in college at Utah State University Eastern where he recorded the first triple-double ever in the school’s history. After two seasons at Utah, he moved to the University of Fransisco where he played for the Dons for just one season. He later transferred to Portland State University where he was made a starter for the school’s team.
3. The Athlete Had Two Knee Surgeries Before His Professional Debut
Though Ime Udoka has made a name as a basketball player and a coach, he still battled some challenges before his professional career started. During his collegiate career, he proved his skills in the various teams he played with. Then, in 2000, he tore his ACL (anterior circulate ligament) that required surgery to fix.
He tore his ACL for the second time some months later while playing for Fargo-Moorhead Beez of the International Basketball Association. This time, the young player had no health insurance cover to foot his bills. The bills were instead paid for by Willie Stoudamire, the organizer of the midnight basketball session where Udoka played during his childhood.
After the surgery, he was told that a piece of cartilage was missing from his knee and would likely cause him pains in the future. The doctor further advised him to embrace a new career path, but his determination to play basketball kept him on the court.
4. Ime Udoka’s Professional Career in the NBA Started with the NDBA and Ended with UCAM Murcia
After a successful collegiate career, Ime Udoka kicked off his professional career in 2002. He started playing in the NBDL (now G-league) after being drafted 39th overall by the Charleston Lowgators. In 2004, he signed a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Lakers but was waived after 4 games. He moved over to Europe for a brief stint before returning to the States.
Udoka’s stock drastically improved upon his return to the states as he got drafted by the Fort Worth Flyers with the 3rd overall pick in the 2005 NBDL draft. In April 2006, he inked a deal with the New York Knicks but was waived again in September 2006. The small forward later got signed by the Portland Trail Blazers, his hometown team, before the 2006/2007 season. He started 75 games for the team in his first season and spent a total of four seasons with them before getting waived in 2007.
With a wealth of basketball experience, Ime Udoka’s services were acquired by the San Antonio Spurs. He played for two seasons with the team before moving back to the Trail Blazers who waived him again. In November 2009, he struck a deal with the Sacramento Kings, playing for one season there before returning to the Spurs in 2010 where he only managed to play in 20 games before getting waived again.
Udoka would go on to join the New Jersey Nets in December 2011. He spent a few days with them before he was waived. He subsequently moved abroad to Spain to sign a deal with UCAM Murcia where he ended his playing career.
5. He Played For The Nigerian National Team
With a Nigerian father from Akwa Ibom, Ime Udoka was allowed to play for the Nigerian national team Nigerian. He played for Nigeria at the 2005 and 2011 FIBA African Championship, winning the bronze medal on both occasions. He also featured for Nigeria at the 2006 FIBA World Championship where he led his country in scoring, assists, and steals.
6. Udoka Retired as a Player in 2012
Having played in over 316 games across seven seasons, Ime Udoka decided to retire as a player in 2012. Other than the medals he won while playing for the Nigerian national team, Udoka has no trophy to his name. Following his retirement, he joined the coaching staff of Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. He has since worked as a coach for a few NBA sides and the USA national team.
7. He Has Built a Career as an Assistant Coach
Ime Udoka had a successful career as an assistant coach in the NBA. His first job in the role was at the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich in August 2012. The team won a championship in 2014, giving him his first trophy. He spent seven years as an assistant coach with the team before moving on.
Udoka signed a contract to become an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers under coach Brett Brown in June 2019. He spent just a year with the team before moving on to the Brooklyn Nets in October 2020 in the same capacity.
8. Ime Udoka Became a Head Coach in the NBA in 2021
Ime Udoka’s relentless work ethic and the vast array of experience he acquired as a player and assistant coach in the various teams he has been with allowed him to become a head coach in the NBA. ESPN first reported that the Boston Celtics were going to give him the job. It was later announced in June 2021 that he was appointed the new head coach of the Celtics. This made him the first head coach in NBA history of Nigerian descent.
9. He Has Bagged Several Awards and Recognitions
Udoka is not one of the most outstanding basketball players of African origin. However, he still managed to bag some accolades in his career. As a player, he won the Jason Collier Sportsmanship Award in 2006. In addition, he won bronze medals in the 2005 and 2011 FIBA African Championship while representing Nigeria. In 2014, he became an NBA champion as an assistant coach.
10. Ime Udoka is Engaged to Actress Nia Long
Ime Udoka became a father in 2011. A few years later in 2015, he got engaged to the mother of his child, actress Nia Long. The two met in 2010 while Udoka was still a player in the NBA. Their son, Kez Sunday Udoka, was born on November 7, 2011
While Udoka has only one child, Nia Long is a mother of two. Her first son, Massai Zhivago Dorsey II, was born in 2000 from her relationship with actor Massai Dorsey.