Raptors' Masai Ujiri Pens Op-Ed On Basketball Africa League's Impact

Adam WellsMay 28, 2021

TORONTO, ONTARIO - JUNE 19: Masai Ujiri, President, Toronto Raptors attends the 2020 Audi Innovation Series on June 19, 2020 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images for Audi Innovation Series)
George Pimentel/Getty Images for Audi Innovation Series

Toronto Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri has penned an op-ed about the impact of the Basketball Africa League as it prepares to wrap up its inaugural season. 

In a post for The Athletic, Ujiri praised the league for doing more than just having a positive impact on the sport in the world's second-largest continent:

"The impact of the 12-team, 12-nation BAL will go beyond the lines of the basketball court. Economically, the potential for growth is phenomenal – even for those without an interest in our great game, the commercial opportunities and avenues for investment in advertising, broadcasting, merchandise, and more, will bring transformative money into African economies."

Ujiri began the article by talking about the dreams he had as an adolescent while "walking to the basketball courts at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria." He continued by recalling a moment after the Raptors won the 2019 NBA Finals:

"I was on a stage with Serge Ibaka, from the Republic of Congo, and Pascal Siakam, who draped the flag of his native Cameroon around his shoulders as we celebrated the Toronto Raptors’ first NBA Championship. Three Africans, at the very top of the NBA. That night, their–and my–basketball dreams came true."

The biggest thing that Ujiri has seen from the BAL's first season is "more investment, less charity."

"This is what Africa wants," Ujiri continued. 

One potential benefit to the NBA—and other professional leagues around the world—is the wealth of untapped basketball talent throughout the continent. 

"If you ask anybody in any game what they search hardest for–and find most challenging to locate–they’ll say, without hesitation, that it’s pure talent. Africa is the youngest continent on the planet, with 60 percent of the population under the age of 25," Ujiri wrote. 

The Basketball Africa League was first announced in February 2019 as a joint venture between the NBA and basketball's international governing body, FIBA. It was initially planned to start in March 2020 but had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A total of 12 teams advanced to the BAL through qualifying tournaments that took place between Oct. and Dec. 2019. 

The season tipped off with group play on May 16. The top two teams in each group at the conclusion of the round-robin stage advanced to the playoffs. 

US Monastir, Patriots, Zamalek and Petro de Luanda advanced to the semifinal round, which will take place on Saturday. The winners of those two games will play in the championship game Sunday.