It’s a great time to be an African basketball fan. The Basketball Africa League (BAL) has just announced that their inaugural first season was such a success that an expanded second season of fixtures has been approved.
Africa’s new professional basketball franchise also marks the first time that the National Basketball Association (NBA) has collaborated to operate a league outside North America. This is seen by many as recognition for the genuine potential of the new league, the fans, and the demand for the game in Africa.
Senegalese basketball and NBA veteran Amadou Gallo Fall explains:
‘We talk about the BAL being an economic growth engine. It’s about seeing infrastructure develop; both physical infrastructure with arenas, and all the amenities that you need to have like a world class type league. But also build capacity from an expertise standpoint.’
BAL’s second season starts on 05 March 2022 in Dakar, Senegal, home of the league’s headquarters.
The 2022 season features 12 club teams from 12 African countries, playing games throughout Africa’s capital cities Dakar, Cairo and Kigali. The second season is bigger than the first, hosting 38 games over four months.
‘Through this expanded competition format, we will bring more games to more countries across the continent, allowing new and returning fans to experience the excitement of this world-class league up close and in person.’
BAL Board President Anibal Manave
Founded in 2010, the BAL is a joint partnership between the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the NBA.
By 2020, the organisation’s Basketball Without Borders programme, launched in 2003, had steered 10 African players towards the NBA draft. This set the trend, and the standard. By the 2020-21 season, a record-equalling 14 African players featured in the NBA, including Cameroonian superstar Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.
The NBA returned the good will and access to African talent, helping the BAL train match officials and establishing networking opportunities with commercial and media partners.
NBA involvement in the BAL has also led to the transfer of coaches and players, increasing its attractiveness to both domestic and international audiences. Thanks to eight broadcast partnerships curated by NBA Africa, the BAL’s first season reached 215 countries and territories in 15 different languages.
‘More important than the financial support they’ve bought in as part of the transaction is the knowledge and relationships and expertise they have in growing businesses on the continent, which we’ll draw on to accelerate the growth plans the NBA has,’ says Williams.
With continued NBA support, the BAL has demonstrated it’s a successful, commercially viable format; by attracting international attention and showcasing African talent.
The BAL also fosters resilient economic opportunities by expanding the African sports and entertainment sector and attracting international investment.