Former President Barack Obama has teamed with the NBA and International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to create a new league in Africa that will feature 12 teams from several countries across the continent.
“I’ve always loved basketball because it’s about building a team that’s equal to more than the sum of its parts. Glad to see this expansion into Africa because for a rising continent, this can be about a lot more than what happens on the court,” Obama tweeted Saturday.
According to published reports, the Basketball Africa League will debut next year and will include teams from several African countries, including Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia. The NBA will conduct qualification tournaments later this year.
“The Basketball Africa League is an important next step in our continued development of the game of basketball in Africa,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement Saturday. “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.”
“We’re excited to work closely with the NBA to develop and put in a place a professional league like none that we have ever seen in our region before,” said FIBA Africa Executive Director Alphonse Bile. “Through the Basketball Africa League, we can provide the many great clubs and players with the best possible environment to compete for the highest stakes.”
Silver says Obama wants an active role in the Basketball Africa League.
“Mark Tatum and I had the pleasure of spending several hours over the past few months with President Obama, and we all know how much work he has been doing in Africa and what a fan of the sport of basketball he is,” Silver said. “He has said ‘I want to be directly involved with these activities in Africa.’ He understands the economic opportunities in Africa. He’s personally a huge fan of the game, and in fact dedicated a court there recently with Masai. So while we’re still talking to him in terms of exactly what his role is going to be, we know he’s going to be directly involved in our activities there as well.”
Several NBA sponsors have expressed interest about partnering with Basketball Africa League, including Pepsi and Jordan Brand.
“As we’ve been talking about this concept over the last several months,” Silver said, “there’s been a tremendous reception from several of our NBA team owners.”