team africa
team africa

The NBA and FIBA have announced a plan to launch a professional basketball league in Africa, called the Basketball Africa League. The BAL will feature 12 teams from around the continent. And, for basketball fans, this is happening very soon – January 2020. What’s amazing about this is that it will be the NBA’s first collaboration for a professional sports league outside of North America. Sure, there are basketball leagues in Asia and Europe, but the NBA is going to be taking a different role with this league. Another amazing thing about this is that former president, Barack Obama is expected to have a hands-on role in the development of the league.

“The Basketball Africa League is an important next step in our continued development of the game of basketball in Africa. 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.”

Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner

But who will make up these 12 teams? Or where will they play? A qualifying event is planned to determine the 12-team league. No more than two teams from one country can qualify. But will this be more like the Olympics where, in order for you to qualify for the team, you have to be a citizen of the country? Or could people travel from country to country and participate on those teams? If they want it to be like the NBA, then it needs to be set up like the latter example. That’s how most sports teams are, outside of the Olympics.

The announcement was made on Sunday, in Charlotte before the NBA All-Star game by quite the group:

  • Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner
  • Andreas Zagklis, FIBA Secretary-General
  • Harmane Niang, FIBA Africa President
  • Michael Jordan, Charlotte Hornets Owner
  • Larry Tanenbaum, Toronto Raptors Chairman
  • Michele Roberts, National Basketball Players Association Executive Director
  • Mark Tatum, NBA Deputy Commissioner
  • Amadou Gallo Fall, NBA Vice President and Managing Director for Africa
  • Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors President

How does Obama fit into this? He appeared in a video during the announcement and said: “Through sport if you put in effort, you will be rewarded”. He later went onto tweet “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.”

While Obama’s role has yet to be determined, by all accounts this sounds like it will be a successful venture. What will this mean for the NBA in general though? Will it produce more players from Africa? Or will the players that it produces simply stay in Africa? Basketball is a popular game all over the world. NBA players come from many different countries, so maybe we would start to see more players going there, instead of Europe or Asia? The outcome remains to be seen, but I think this is a great first step in expanding the NBA’s presence.

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