Africa has contributed immensely to the growth of the NBA. Pacesetters including Hall of Famers Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon, Manute Bol, just to mention a few, proved the continent has incredible talent during their respective careers.
With African representation and dominance in the NBA growing steadily in recent times, the association has moved to invest more in nurturing more talents and growing the game on the continent.
It is in this regard that the NBA and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) launched the Basketball Africa League (BAL). Set to commence in January 2020, the BAL will consist of twelve teams from countries across the continent including Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.
“The concept for this is African. It is not a national, but African awards. That is why we give the opportunity for the countries to have, apart from foreign players, African players as well,” Anibal Manave, the president o president of the board for BAL told VOA.
Looking to further strengthen its basketball ties with the continent, American basketball coach, Will Voigt, with the assistance of the NBA and former players including Dikembe Mutombo and Olumide Oyedeji organized a basketball clinic in Luanda, Angola, in May to nurture new talent, VOA reports.
“I think my presence means a lot to these young people who are playing the game here, that I am still caring about them. We are following them and we want them to succeed and we want the game of basketball to continue to grow in the continent,” Mutombo said about the clinic.
Voigt, who is currently the coach of the Angola national basketball team also elaborated on the importance of such clinics.
“We are trying the best as we can to give them a fair opportunity to learn and grow. We already have seen what players from the continent can do when given them,” he said.
Former NBA player Olumide Oyedeji also spoke to VOA about the significant growth of basketball across the continent and his belief of an African team soon reaching the FIBA world top 10.
“We have a chance; we just need to keep playing and getting better, beside the fact that it must start with each step. I believe we are taking the right steps,” he said.
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, former NBA star and Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutumbo played in the NBA from 1991 until 2009, recording 11,729 points, 12,359 rebounds, and 3,289 blocks during 18 seasons spent mostly with Denver, Atlanta and Houston.
Throughout his career and after retirement, Mutombo has been an ambassador of the game on the continent. He was present during the launch of the BAL early this year. He is also widely known for his contributions towards humanitarianism.