The NBA on Monday announced the creation of a new entity called NBA Africa. It will be in charge of the league’s business in Africa, including the Basketball Africa League (BAL), which is in the midst of its first season after getting postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league has partnered with several high-profile investors to form NBA Africa, including former players Dikembe Mutombo, Junior Bridgeman, Luol Deng, Grant Hill and Joakim Noah.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said during the introductory announcement that NBA Africa is already valued at “nearly $1 billion,” and hopes to build it into one of the “top brands” in Africa.
“Today’s announcement is the result of many years of investment and on-the-ground work to grow the game of basketball in Africa and a recognition of the enormous opportunities ahead for the NBA on the continent,” Silver said in a press release. “We believe that basketball can become a top sport across Africa over the next decade, and I look forward to working closely with our investors to make that goal a reality.”
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Mutombo, born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, shared his excitement about the formation:
“This is a historic day for basketball in Africa, and I’m honored to join this special group of leaders who are committed to the continent and to using the game to improve people’s lives,” Mutombo said. “I’m fortunate to have been among the first players from Africa to make an impact in the NBA, and because of the commitment of these individuals, countless more players will have the opportunity to follow in my footsteps in the years ahead.”
The NBA has focused on growing basketball across Africa in the past decade, and opened its headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2010. Over the years, there’s been an increase in the number of players who have come from different countries in Africa such as Joel Embiid, Pascal Siakam and Gorgui Dieng. Silver said during the virtual news conference that there are 55 players in the league today who are either from Africa or have family ties there. Some of those players likely wouldn’t have been discovered if it weren’t for the league’s efforts in providing access to basketball and elite training camps.
The funding from the creation of NBA Africa will go toward growing the BAL, and helping expand the league’s reach across the continent of Africa and providing more access to the sport.