Seven African stars on the rise in North America

There is no doubting the enormous fantasy upside of the Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid -- but there's a catch. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The African diaspora stretches across the globe, but a heavy concentration of rising stars have gathered in North America, from Tampa to Toronto.

KweséESPN looks at seven African athletes (NFL stars can be found here) who shone brightly in 2017.

Joel Embiid (Center, Philadelphia 76ers)

From his first tip-off in an actual NBA game last season, Joel Embiid has made Philadelphia fans and NBA fans around the world learn to #trusttheprocess. The Cameroonian center is one of the young "Unicorns" in the league and has skills far beyond that of any other center in the game.

At just 23, (eight years after he first picked up a basketball) Embiid is averaging 23.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks with a PER of 23.63 for the Sixers. Embiid's presence is a boost for the team and the league, not just for his ability on the court but his personality off the court.

As long as he remains healthy and relatively injury free, Embiid will be a top African to watch in sports each year.

Francis Ngannou (Heavyweight fighter, UFC)

"The Predator" Ngannou has made a meteoric rise through the UFC after picking up mixed martial arts just four years ago.

The Batié, Cameroon-born Ngannou trained as a boxer before emigrating to France to pursue a boxing career. A coach introduced Ngannou, who now lives in Las Vegas, to MMA and the rest is not yet history.

Coming off a powerful knockout victory over esteemed UFC veteran Alistair Overeem, Ngannou is now 11-1 in his MMA career and is headlining UFC 220 in Boston, in a fight against current champion Stipe Miocic.

Victory over Miocic on January 20th will put Ngannou at the top of the fight world and make him the UFC's first African champion.

Victor Oladipo (Guard, Indiana Pacers)

Even though the NBA season hasn't reached its midpoint yet, Indiana Pacers guard Oladipo has had a roaring start to the 2017-18 NBA season.

The Nigerian-American, in his 4th season in the league, has found a home with the Pacers, and a coach and system which allows him to play on the ball a bit more. It also allows him to show the instincts of a closer that he picked up from playing with Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City last season.

Oladipo is currently averaging 24.9 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game, 3.9 assists per game with a PER of 24.00 and if his current form continues, he will undoubtedly make his first appearance in an NBA All-Star game in February.

Chris Mavinga (Defender, Toronto FC)

After signing with Toronto FC in January, DR Congo international Mavinga contributed immensely to Toronto's march to the MLS Cup. Playing both left fullback and center back, Mavinga helped Toronto hold opponents to just two goals in five playoff games and the Angolan-Congolese defender ended up lifting the trophy after the championship game win over the Seattle Sounders.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Forward, Milwaukee Bucks)

One of the NBA's young "Unicorns" along with Embiid, Greek-Nigerian forward Antetokounmpo has taken major leaps in each of his four NBA seasons to the point where he is now a legitimate NBA MVP candidate.

The Freak is putting up ridiculous stats this season as he averages 29.5 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks per game and a PER of 30.70. Giannis is producing numbers while showing his versatility on the court, and doing it without an effective jumpshot.

When he finally gets an effective jumper (his current coach Jason Kidd eventually developed one in the 2000's too), he will most likely end up winning multiple MVP awards. For now, Giannis without a jumpshot is still an MVP candidate and one of the top Africans in North American sports.

Gift Ngoepe (Infielder, Toronto Blue Jays)

The first mainland African to play in Major League Baseball, South Africa's Ngoepe made his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 26th and represented the continent properly.

Known more for his defensive/fielding ability than his hitting proficiency, Ngoepe battled to stay in the majors but ended up being sent back down to the minors in the middle of the season and then traded to Toronto later in the year.

Regardless of what happens to Ngoepe in the future, the South African has opened doors once shut to Africans and given MLB scouts a reason to head to Africa to find the next Jose Altuve, Giancarlo Stanton, or even the next Gift Ngoepe.

Clint Capela (Center, Houston Rockets)

Third-year NBA player Capela has shown steady improvement each season in the league and the 2017 season is his best so far.

Currently averaging 14.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks with a PER of 27.36, the Swiss-born Congolese-Angolan center is the foundation of the Houston Rockets defense and his ability to run up and down the court is Gazelle-like for a center.

With the Rockets currently battling for the best record in the NBA and home court advantage heading into the playoffs in April, Capela's presence at center in the 2017-18 season will be a plus for the Rockets every time he steps on the court.