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The NBA is going to Africa: How this could pave the way for the future

The NBA is going to Africa.

The name of the association will be the Basketball Africa League and it’s expected to include teams from Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia.

The NBA along with International Basketball Federation announced its plan Saturday, Feb. 16 to conduct qualification tournaments later this year with the hopes of debuting in 2020.

The move is on par with the ties and relations they’ve built with their annual NBA Africa Games which was started in 2015 to both develop talent and support the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Every year Team Africa, comprised players born in Africa or with direct family ties to the continent, plays against Team World, which featured players drawn from the rest of the world. Now that an official league is coming to the continent the opportunities are endless. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement Saturday,

“The Basketball Africa League is an important next step in our continued development of the game of basketball in Africa.”

He continued,

“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.”

Former President Barack Obama, who has Kenyan roots, also applauded the announcement.

We’ ve seen the towering 7’1 Manute Bol from South Sudan and the lineage that came forth in Luol Deng.

We’ve had the dominant Dikembe Mutombo from Congolese and the masterful Hakeem Olajuwon from Nigeria who gave way to your Al-Farouq Aminu’s of the world and even the likes of Serge Ibaka, who’s from the Republic of Congo.

Not to mention Evan Fournier from Algeria — there have always been African-born players in the NBA. Still, one could argue that now, more than any time before, Africans are some-what dominating the sport of basketball.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 6’11” Greek professional basketball player of Nigerian descent who is an early MVP candidate leading his team to an Eastern Conference-best 43-14 record.

Joel Embiid is a once in a generation talent from Cameroon who, at 7’1″, can also handle it and shoot it from deep. His 76ers are also very much in the hunt for a title. If the best player in the league is not African now, it surely will be in the foreseeable future.

The NBA’s expansion into Africa gives the players, coaches, and players; spotlight, platform, and opportunity. The athleticism and willingness are there, but now with developmental resources, the NBA has the opportunity of mining something special to come.

The future of the NBA looks bright and has already surpassed the NFL in popularity. It’s growth to different countries, however, is a move that may separate it from the pack of American sports and potentially put it in a realm with futbol.

Until then, it will be interesting to see what product the BAL will put forth. I guess we’ll have to find out next year.