“With the 57th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks select Targuy Ngombo, forward, from the Republic of the Congo, he most recently…[does not exist]”
Everyone’s favorite Deputy Commissioner then stepped away from the podium and calmly strolled into that magical and mysterious wonderland, backstage. Like a child happily pushing buttons in a nuclear missile silo, he hadn’t the slightest idea what he had just done.
Cut to Stuart Scott, our host for the evening. Although a consummate professional, after a couple hours of running a live telecast, coming up with factoids for 56 draft picks, and attempting at least 3-4 jokes met with stone-faces from Jeff Van Gundy that only lacked Mutombo finger wags, Stu just didn’t have anything left to summon for Targuy Ngombo.
Maybe if the NBA champions had selected Ben Hansbrough, we might have been regaled with tales of his production in the vaunted Big East and treated to the knowledge that his uncle, Sean Fister, is a three-time winner of the world long drive championship. Or if Adam Silver had read the name of Xavi Rabaseda, Stu might have delighted us with the fact that Rabaseda’s hometown of Girona claims one of the most prestigious roller hockey teams in all of Spain, GEiEG.
But Targuy Ngombo? Who the fuck is Targuy Ngombo? Bring in Fran Fraschilla. Now what warrants mentioning here is that Stu didn’t know that he shouldn’t know about Targuy Ngombo. Fraschilla, on the other hand, did know that he shouldn’t know. At least he thought he knew that he shouldn’t know, but now it almost seemed that he knew that he wished he didn’t know. Poor Fran wore the look of a child who had at that moment found out that Santa Claus wasn’t just his dad, but some sort of imaginary entity that even if real, still wouldn’t possess nearly the gift giving abilities and affinity for training magic reindeer that the child had spent the last 12 months charting and analyzing among assorted North Pole residents.
He did his best to gather himself and deliver an appropriate explanation but all he could muster in his state of shock was to repeat the words, “hoax” and “Sidd Finch,” a reference to the famous April Fool’s joke from Sports Illustrated. So not only would the 57th pick in the NBA draft likely not pan out as a professional basketball player but the head international scout for the Worldwide Leader in Sports appeared to hold genuine doubts that Targuy Ngombo even existed in the physical world.
June 21st, 2011 – Jonathan Givony calls out to his Twitter followers to see if anyone knew anything or had ever heard of Targuy Ngombo. And until that moment, no one had ever heard of Targuy Ngombo. Well, that may not be entirely true. I would love to believe that in the same Qatari laboratories working to create the fake clouds to keep World Cup stadiums cool, the scientists also created Targuy Ngombo with the Freddy Krueger like ability to move in and out of the dreams of NBA scouts to threaten their lives in order to spread draft buzz, but I realize that just isn’t practical. Someone must have heard of Targuy Ngombo in order to tip Givony. But that’s really only partially true.
The genesis of Targuy Ngombo combines elements of both creationism and evolution, and maybe even a dash of Flying Spaghetti Monster, which really does sound more like a television advertised brand of faux Italian spices with an animated caricature pitchman than an ironic religion created by hipster nerds, but I digress. The creation story begins fittingly in Guangzhou, China, center of the manufacturing rich Pearl River Delta. According to the box score of a quarterfinal match up in the 2010 Asian Games, Qatari forward Targuy Ngombo recorded 24 points and 9 rebounds in a losing effort against the host country. Normally, the story such a game would have ended there, inside the Huangpu Gymnasium, with only the select few in attendance to carry on the memory. But one member of that few, an assistant coach for Team China, just happened to be Pete Philo, who just happened to have a second job as a scout for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Sometime after the game, Philo likely returns to his hotel to Skype David Kahn as he does every night, but on this night presents his case to draft Targuy Ngombo.
Now a mystery here, or one of the mysteries I should say, is what caused Philo to make that call. What could have happened among those 24 points and 9 ballboards to charge him up and call his GM halfway across the world to demand that he draft a guy that even then, no one else had ever even heard of, let alone scouted? Couldn’t they have just invited him to camp? Wang Zhi Zhi had 18 and 9 in this game. There must have been something truly remarkable about this particular 24 and 9. Did Targuy Ngombo dunk from the three-point line while eating an entire plate of homemade lutefisk Jell-O, while ice fishing, while translating the latest happenings in Lake Wobegon for his teammates? Personally, I suspect Pete Philo just had been exposed to Sun Yue too long (sorry, that was just Yue too easy). But no matter his ailment, Targuy Ngombo had become a genuine NBA prospect. So naturally, Targuy Ngombo then goes the seven months completely unknown, even managing to avoid the ever-watchful eye of the Internet.
Jonathan Givony’s tweet sent the NBA Draft international scouting e-underworld into relative chaos. They scoured their internet land for anything at all, just some sort of nugget to create the first scouting report on Targuy Ngombo and attain twitter glory and maybe, just maybe, score that elusive link on Truehoop. But throughout the electronic realm, nowhere could they find the object of their longing. Targuy Ngombo simply had no place on this newfangled “internet” and so began the rumor of a hoax. Really though, if something isn’t on the Internet, does it really exist?
June 21st, 2011, the video evidence appears on YouTube. Unsurprisingly, it came from an anonymous expert of Asian basketball on his own web log. He claims to have watched 5 complete games of Targuy Ngombo and compiled a very official scouting report with his findings, as well as posted the infamous video. I would call it a highlight video but those normally contain highlights. They aim to convince the viewer that the subject of the video excels at his depicted occupation. I don’t believe that this video had that same aim. It included the requisite three pointers and dunks, but interspersed with careless turnovers, missed free throws, and air balls. Someday, the pixelated image of Targuy Ngombo sticking a three after leaving a 5 footer 3 feet short will not stand next to Noel Devine rampaging through Floridian prep football, but will join the clip of Bigfoot looking over his shoulder while tromping through the Northern California woods because like Bigfoot, the five-minutes of footage aimed only to prove Targuy Ngombo’s existence.
At this point, the evidence for his existence includes a video, score lines, and the fact that an NBA team now held his draft rights. The average person would be completely understood in thinking that Targuy Ngombo seemed like a fairly normal, existing, 2nd round pick. But when the front office of the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Kingdom of Qatar are involved, things aren’t always as they seem.
The day after the draft, rumors started to float that the player thought to be Targuy Ngombo wasn’t really 21 years old. Soon after that came rumors that the player thought to be Targuy Ngombo wasn’t really named Targuy Ngombo, but Tanguy Ngombo, listed as a 27 year old small forward on the FIBA website. Targuy Ngombo didn’t exist and his alias in reality, Tanguy Ngombo, was ineligible to be drafted. David Kahn had just outdone himself. He went into the metaphorical Nebraska town and traded the sheepdog van to a kid for a 70-mpg mo-ped, straight up. The incompetence of the T’Wolves front office should never be underestimated but equally as persistent is the complete corruption of the Kingdom of Qatar.
Qatar first gained exposure when they bought the 2022 World Cup. Zinedine Zidane on allegations of bribery, “Well yeah, of course we got paid. But it wasn’t nearly much as they said.” Next, the “nonprofit” Qatar Foundation finds 150 million euro lying around in “nonprofits” that it uses to soil the shirt of FC Barcelona with the first kit sponsorship in the club’s 111-year history. Now, Qatar has been trying to take over Asian basketball with, let’s say, less than legal tactics.
A quick comparison of the national team roster to the general demographics of the country creates these suspicions. Ethnic groups in the country include, in order of percentage: Arab, Pakistani, Indian, Iranian, and other (14%). The national team has 9 Africans on a roster of 12. Maybe basketball is just that much more popular with the minority 14%. However, while I only have a rudimentary understanding of Asian basketball politics, there are rumors that Qatar allows any player who arrives in the country younger than 16 to play as a local in the domestic league, as well as become a naturalized citizen to play on the national team. I would also question the circumstances that would lead a poor kid in Africa who shows early basketball talent to travel alone to Qatar, but I don’t want to jump to any conclusions (HUMAN TRAFFICKING). For players who arrive after 16, such as Tanguy Ngombo, they need only to shave a few years off of their claimed age and all is well. At least, all is well until a scout for the most bumbling front office in the NBA happens across one of your players and drafts the imagined alias.
And wouldn’t that be a fitting legacy for David Kahn’s GM career, that he unwittingly blew the lid off of the rampant corruption in Qatari sports? Or maybe it goes the other way. Maybe David Kahn was in on it the whole time. Keep in mind that the Minnesota Timberwolves have no money, a lockout looms, and that Qatar owns the soul of Ricky Rubio’s FC Barcelona by salvaging the club from bankruptcy. What if Qatar bought David Kahn with bags of cash and Ricky Rubio in exchange for Qatari draft picks and unknown things to come? I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see where the story goes.