In what could be a game changing moment for sport in Africa, the National Basketball Association gave its backing to a new Pan-African professional basketball league on Saturday.
The new event, which will feature 12 teams, will be known as the Basketball Africa league, and will operate in much the same manner as the Champions League in football.
A great many details still need to be worked out but it was clear from a luncheon in Charlotte, which is hosting this year’s NBA All Stars weekend, and where the NBA’s most senior executive, Commissioner Adam Silver made the announcement, the new league will receive significant backing from one of the most powerful sports organisation’s in the world.
So the @NBA is going to run a 12-team Pan-Africa professional league in Africa starting early next year. A sort of basketball Champions League. Huge opportunities ahead.— stuart hess (@shockerhess) February 16, 2019
Beside’s a host of current and former NBA stars from Africa, Saturday’s luncheon was also attended by the legendary Michael Jordan and the new league already has one reknowned backer in the shape of former US president, and noted basketball fanatic, Barack Obama.
Initially, the new league will be built on the foundation of current club competitions run by basketball’s worldwide mother body, the International Basketball Association (FIBA) is organising in Africa. “Scheduled to begin play in January 2020, the BAL would mark the NBA’s first collaboration to operate a league outside of North America,” read a statement from the NBA.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver juat announced that former US President Obama is throwing his weight behind this new Pan Africa league...— stuart hess (@shockerhess) February 16, 2019
Plenty of logistical challenges await, including transport, hotel and stadium infrastructure which outside of South Africa, is either still in the early stages of development in places like Senegal, Rwanda and Nigeria, or plain lacking.
However the opportunities for growth are enormous. “The Basketball Africa League is an important next step in our continued development of the game of basketball in Africa,” said Silver. “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.”