On Saturday during All-Star Weekend festivities, the NBA made a big announcement. Along with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the league announced plans to begin a 12-team basketball league in Africa next year.
The two leagues said the Basketball African League (BAL) would feature clubs across Africa, with specific teams still to be determined. The countries listed include Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.
The announcement was made in the presence of several NBA figures with roots in Africa. Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri and Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutombo, among others, were in attendance.
“A professional basketball league in Africa will provide a platform for players to showcase their talent and inspire more boys and girls to play the game,” said NBA Africa VP Amadou Gallo Fall.
Alphonse Bilé, executive director of FIBA Africa, called the partnership “a historic day for basketball on our continent.”
To announce the BAL, the NBA released a promotional video which features former U.S. President Barack Obama.
— NBA (@NBA) February 16, 2019
The statement also mentions the two leagues’ other plans for the continent. Providing resources for “Africa’s basketball ecosystem,” including training for players, coaches and referees, and infrastructure will be part of the BAL.
While the BAL is the NBA’s first official league on the continent, there have been three NBA Africa Games overseas, most recently in 2018.
The BAL will hold qualifying tournaments to determine teams. Play is expected to begin in January of 2020.