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The NBA realized the potential of Africa as a hotbed for talent before other sports leagues, with players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, Manute Bol, Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo all hailing from the continent.
So to keep the pipeline open and full, the NBA launched NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) three years ago during the pandemic, and its continued its gradual growth ever since.
“If we think about growing the game of basketball in Africa an important element in that is ensuring that young people who are interested in the game, and want to invest in developing their skills, they need to see a pathway where there is a future for them in playing basketball at a really high level on the continent,” said NBA Africa CEO, Victor Williams.
The league, run by NBA Africa, launched with 12 teams from 12 countries, and the games were televised in 215 countries and territories.
The potential was so great that in its second season President Obama, whose father was Kenyan, joined NBA Africa as a strategic partner.
“The NBA has always been a great ambassador for the United States—using the game to create deeper connections around the world, and in Africa, basketball has the power to promote opportunity, wellness, equality, and empowerment across the continent,” said President Barack Obama in a statement at the time. “By investing in communities, promoting gender equality, and cultivating the love of the game of basketball, I believe that NBA Africa can make a difference for so many of Africa’s young people.”
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