Basketball in Africa celebrates 10 years and aims for more expansion
JOHANNESBURG – The US National Basketball Association (NBA) celebrated 10 years since it opened its first office in Johannesburg this week.
To mark the occasion, the NBA has launched the Basketball Africa League in addition to the grassroots program already in place.
“Sports is traditionally seen on the continent as an activity and not really as an endeavour that has an ecosystem around it,” John Manyo-Plange, head of the NBA's operations in Africa told RFI during a conference at the end of January at the launch of the Basketball Africa League.
“It's not just about what happens on the court or the field, but there's a multi-billion dollar business around the sports and entertainment field. And we feel this is an underdeveloped area that the African continent hasn't taken advantage of.”
The competition will be held across seven cities over a three-month period, with 12 teams in action.
In 2017, an elite basketball academy was opened in Senegal. One of the players to benefit from the academy is Dick Rutatika Sano from Rwanda. The 15-year-old was one of 12 players selected for the academy.
“Basketball has opened a lot of opportunities for me,” Sano told RFI.
“My most memorable experience was the junior global championship back in 2018. Because not only did I get the opportunity to meet new people, but I also got to represent my family, my country and my continent.”
Already over two-metres tall, Sano could well end up in the ‘big-time’ in the USA NBA.
“I'm really inspired by NBA players such as LeBron James in terms of giving back to the community. And I would really like to do the same thing: inspire people both on and off the court.”
There have already been a number of players who have come through the grassroots development programs in the 10-year history of the NBA’s involvement in Africa.
Cameroon’s Joel Embiid (2.13m) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (2.11m) both were identified through the NBA’s program and have gone on to play in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks.
African News Agency (ANA)