The increasing African representation in the National Basketball Association (NBA), as well as the keen interest in the sport on the continent, were the main drivers behind the need to create a Pan-African basketball league.
Outlining the plans of the proposed Basketball Africa League (BAL), NBA vice-president and managing director of NBA Africa, Amadou Gallo Fall, told City Press the idea was a consequence of the work that has been undertaken for decades.
The mooted continental basketball league could open doors for local-born players to shoot into the NBA top-flight league in future.
The 12-club league – set to start next year – will be NBA’s first collaboration to operate a league outside the US, which is widely considered to be the hub of the premier men’s professional basketball league.
“This was an opportunity to establish the African League to complement all the grassroots programmes,” said Fall in reference to Basketball Without Borders Africa and the Junior NBA, which is being implemented in 13 African countries.
“We are excited to work with the national federations to build capacity.”
Although the BAL was still a work in progress, Fall said the next step would be to conduct qualification tournaments later this year to identify the 12 teams that would represent several African countries.
These include South Africa, Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Tunisia.
This will be in consultation with the NBA and the International Basketball Federation (Fiba).
Fall said no more than two teams from the same country would be able to qualify.
He confirmed that NBA and Fiba had pledged financial support and resources towards the BAL in the form of players’ training, coaches and referees, as well as infrastructure investment.
“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.
“Creating NBA Africa in the first place was done to give young players around the continent an opportunity to make a living playing basketball,” said Fall, who is a former professional basketball player originally from Senegal.
The local NBA Africa office was opened in 2010.
“The establishment of the African League is another exciting milestone for the NBA in Africa,” said Fall.
He added that more than 80 players – current or former – from Africa, or with ties to the continent, had campaigned in the NBA.
Among those were graduates from Basketball Without Borders Africa programme, which was launched in 2003.