Africa: Basketball Africa League – Connecting African teams to the NBA

Beyond the game, using sport for gender equality and climate action

If you grew up in Africa and aspired to be a professional basketball player – just like the stars of the American National Basketball Association (NBA) on television – then you know how difficult it was to have the opportunity to show your talent internationally.

The lack of well-paying professional leagues at the national and regional levels was a major impediment to the growth of homegrown talent.

However, all of that is changing now, thanks to the Basketball Africa League (BAL) – a continental African professional basketball league that is a partnership between the American National Basketball Association (NBA) and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). ).

Founded in February 2019 in Dakar, Senegal, the Basketball Africa League successfully launched its first season in May 2021 in Kigali, Rwanda during the COVID-19 pandemic. The second season was in Dakar and Cairo, while his last game was in Kigali. Egyptian club, Zamalek won the inaugural season while US Monastir of Tunisia won the second season.

This league is the first of its kind in Africa and currently has 12 club teams from across the continent. It organizes qualifying rounds to play the teams each season. The basketball federations of the participating African countries have the opportunity to send their national basketball champion to the qualifying tournament. The 12 teams from the qualifying tournament meet to face each other in the final.

Currently, the women’s league has not started yet, but there are plans to launch it soon. However, there are programs targeting women coaches and those in decision-making positions in sport, as well as young women training at basketball academies (e.g. Junior NBA in Africa and other partner academies of BAL).

It is very important that the young girl sees that she can succeed in sport and that she can take on leadership positions, both [basketball] short and off the court.

The league’s television partners in the United States that broadcast the games in Africa include NBA TV, ESPN+ and Voice of America. American teams send scouts to watch the final games. Outstanding players from Africa have the chance to showcase their talent in the NBA Summer League in the United States where they stand a chance of getting a contract.

The Basketball Africa League gives young players from the continent the opportunity to pursue a career in professional basketball, while taking advantage of the league’s platforms to enter the world stage. For example, Egyptian Zamalek Anas Mahmoud was the first to earn a spot in the 2021 NBA Summer League with the Toronto Raptors.

In season 2, Evans Ganapamo (from Central African Republic) who played for Cape Town Tigers in the BAL was drafted by Milwaukee Bucks for the 2022 NBA summer league. However, both players were unsuccessful to earn a final roster spot for their respective NBA team. They will play again at BAL and try out next year.

Additionally, two head coaches from BAL Season 2 were also invited to the 2022 NBA Summer League as assistant coaches. Coach Francois Enyegue, who led Cameroon’s Armed Forces and Police (FAP) team, coached the Milwaukee Bucks, while Emmanuel Mavomo, who coached Espoir Fukash from the DRC, helped the Toronto Raptors in the 2022 Summer League. A BAL referee from Rwanda, Jean Sauveur Ruhamiriza, also officiated in the 2022 NBA Summer League.

Basketball Africa League television partners in the United States that broadcast matches in Africa include NBA TV, ESPN+ and Voice of America. American teams send scouts to watch the final matches. Outstanding players from Africa have the chance to showcase their talent in the NBA Summer League in the United States where they stand a chance of getting a contract.

Go beyond the game

Beyond sport, however, the organization has created new platforms and programs that leverage the game of basketball as a community connector to help create meaningful social impact across Africa.

We’ve learned that it’s not about being a “feminine” basketball player, just being a basketball player. And I will do everything to be the best I can be,” says Fatou Bintou Cissé, a young player from the Seed Academy in Senegal.

Earlier this year, on International Women’s Day on March 8, the Basketball Africa League pledged to work towards gender equality and the inclusion of women in sports ecosystems in Africa – an initiative dubbed BAL4HER.

There are plans to implement interventions in all markets in Africa to promote women in sport on BAL4HER day. These will include round tables, workshops, networking opportunities and the creation of content on social networks, among other actions.

Victor Williams, CEO of NBA Africa, sees this as a great opportunity for young people.

“It is very important that the young girl sees that she can succeed in sport, and that she can take on leadership positions, both in terms of [basketball] on and off the court,” says Williams.

Actions and awareness for the climate

The African league, through its BAL Green platform, is also exploring ways for players and fans to have a positive impact on the environment and in people’s lives by advocating for greater environmental responsibility for greener communities. and durable.

The organization has launched a Threes-For-Trees initiative supported by partner New Fortress Energy in which trees are donated to other organizations involved in the Great Green Wall initiative. These organizations include Trees for the Future.

The Green Great Wall initiative is an ambitious project to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land in the Sahel to capture 250 million tonnes of carbon and create 10 million green jobs by 2030, while helping communities living along the wall to cultivate fertile land to survive. . More than a dozen countries are involved in the initiative.

How does Threes-for-Trees work?

For every 3 points scored in a Basketball Africa League game and during each of their activations such as team training sessions, the organization has committed to planting three trees. For example, in their practices in March alone, teams participating in a 3-point shootout made over 1,000 3-point shots in support of the initiative. As a result, a total of 3,618 trees were planted.

For every 3 points scored in a Basketball Africa League game and during each of their activations such as team training sessions, the organization has committed to planting three trees. For example, in their practices in March alone, teams participating in a 3-point shootout made over 1,000 3-point shots in support of the initiative. As a result, a total of 3,618 trees were planted.

Meanwhile, the Basketball Africa League continues to use the power of sport and social media to show the importance of environmental awareness. Every time fans interact with them on social media, a tree is planted. That means one tree for every like on Facebook, every tweet or retweet on Twitter, or every share of BAL content on social media.

With this approach, the organization intends to promote concrete actions to restore the ecosystem, combat desertification and raise awareness of climate change in Africa, as well as individual actions to support the Great Green Wall.

BAL Season 3 is scheduled to take place in March 2023. The Sahara Conference will be held in Dakar, Senegal, with six teams battling to reach the top 4 and qualify for the BAL playoffs in Kigali. The Nile Conference will be held a month later in Cairo, Egypt. Six other teams will fight to climb into the top 4 and qualify for the qualifiers in Kigali. The finals will be played around May 2023 with eight playoff teams.

Catch it if you can!

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