JOHANNESBURG – For all the excitement that Saturday afternoon’s announcement about a professional basketball league in Africa backed by the NBA generated, the devil lays in the detail - and at this stage, the details are thin.
The NBA, the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) and the various regional associations in Africa have time on their side - the new league is only scheduled to start next year, but a lot of work awaits, not least of all, figuring out logistics like travel arrangements, hotels and where the games in this new competition will be played.
At an official launch, attended by arguably the greatest player of all time Michael Jordan, the NBA’s Commissioner, Adam Silver announced the new Basketball Africa League, a 12-team professional tournament.
For now, the competition will rely on an existing competition, the African Basketball League hosted by Fiba, pig-backing on it, while the NBA works through some important details; like how its competition will run, where it will be run and most importantly how much backing it can get financially.
There was a lot of talk on Saturday about the business and commercial opportunities that the new event will provide in addition to the playing opportunities for the youngsters being produced through the NBA’s various development initiatives around the continent.
NBA VP & Managing Director for Africa, Amadou Gallo Fall, @hornets Chairman Michael Jordan and @NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum at the announcement of the Basketball Africa League at the annual #NBAAllStar Africa Luncheon in Charlotte, NC! pic.twitter.com/3s4LLxfYcn— NBA Africa (@NBA_Africa) February 16, 2019
But the new league needs something more tangible for prospective backers to invest in than just a lot of flowery talk.
“There is a business imperative, we have to change this into a self-sufficient business enterprise, and I have no doubt that in the next 10 years, this will be a model we will all look back on and be very proud of,” said Amadou Gallo Fall, the Managing Director for NBA Africa.
“As with any business you go in with commitment and passion and all the energy from Fiba and the NBA side to endeavour to put together a compelling product. It will be successful, there is no doubt. I don’t know if year one is going to be profitable, but like in any business, you go in and were are in for the long run, this is not a three or five year project this is something we want to do into perpetuity.”
Gallo Fall has certainly shown that he is a man of action. Under his watch, the NBA Africa office has established an Academy in Senegal, broadened the Basketball Without Borders development initiatives throughout the continent, and most famously brought an exhibition game to the continent in the form of the NBA Africa Game. That event has taken place in Johannesburg and Tshwane three times in recent years and featured some of the NBA’s brightest talents.
The establishment of a professional league is thus the next logical step and the fact that the high powered NBA board of governors and owners has given its backing to the competition - its first collaboration to operate a league outside of North America - further underlines the very real potential it recognises in Africa.
The 12 teams that qualify for the Basketball Africa League, will come from the winners of various national competitions around the continent, from which final qualifiers from regional tournaments will make it through to the potentially lucrative BAL. Teams will be made up of eight players from the club’s country and then four others from around the continent or further afield.
“The vast majority of players participating in this league are going to be from Africa. Our No 1 priority is to grow the sport and level of talent on the continent.”@shockerhess