With the aim of nurturing more talent and expanding the game in Africa, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), on Saturday, announced plans to launch 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 Basketball Africa League is an important next step in our continued development of the game of basketball in Africa,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Combined with our other programs on the continent, we are committed to using basketball as an economic engine to create new opportunities in sports, media and technology across Africa.”
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FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis shared his excitement about the partnership and the prospect of the new league.
“On FIBA’s behalf, it’s a huge joy to see our partnership with the NBA enter unchartered territory as we work together for the first time to maximize the potential of professional basketball in Africa,” he said.
“This is a natural extension of what we have done through the joint initiative that is Basketball Without Borders (BWB), which helps find, develop and nurture young talented players all around the world, including in Africa. The Basketball Africa League will enable us to build on the solid foundation laid by FIBA Africa and relaunch the continent’s club competition to offer the ultimate platform for the very best clubs and players.”
NBA Vice President and Managing Director for Africa, Amadou Gallo Fall, who was also present at the launch, spoke about the BAL, which is set to commence qualification tournaments later in the year.
“The establishment of the Basketball Africa League is another exciting milestone for the NBA in Africa,” said Fall. “Having a top-flight professional basketball league in Africa will provide a platform for elite players to showcase their talent and inspire more young boys and girls to play the game.”
Barack Obama, who is an avid basketball fan, also welcomed the announcement. Reports indicate the former U.S. president is likely to have a role in the new league.
“I’ve always loved basketball because it’s about building a team that’s equal to more than the sum of its parts. Glad to see this expansion into Africa because for a rising continent, this can be about a lot more than what happens on the court,” he tweeted.
Some notable African basketball stars present at the launch included Hornets
Also present was Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri, who is Nigerian and legendary ex-basketball player and NBA Global Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo, who is also from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.