NBA Announces Basketball Africa League to Start in 2020; Barack Obama Involved

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2019

NBA commissioner Adam Silver gestures during a news conference prior to the start of an NBA basketball game between New York Knicks and Washington Wizards at the O2 Arena, in London, Thursday, Jan.17, 2019. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Alastair Grant/Associated Press

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Saturday announced the launch of the Basketball Africa League, a 12-team competition consisting of teams across the continent.

The league, which will begin play in 2020, will feature squads from Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia. Qualification tournaments will be held later this year to determine the inaugural participants.

Each country will be limited to two teams. The plan is to have it run in a format similar to soccer's UEFA Champions League, per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated.

"As we've been talking about this concept over the last several months, there's been a tremendous reception from several of our NBA team owners," Silver said. "Several of our partners have also expressed an interest to work with us in Africa."

Basketball Africa League is the NBA's first pro league outside North America and will be co-run with FIBA. President Barack Obama will also be part of the league, Silver said, according to the Associated Press' Tim Reynolds. Obama's role has not been determined.

"There's been a fantastic reception," Silver said.

The NBA has held exhibition games in Africa in three of the previous four years. As of July, more than 80 current and former players are from Africa or have ties to the continent. The league has held 16 Basketball Without Borders events in Africa. 

"We're excited to work closely with the NBA to develop and put in a place a professional league like none that we have ever seen in our region before," FIBA Africa executive director Alphonse Bile said. "Through the Basketball Africa League, we can provide the many great clubs and players with the best possible environment to compete for the highest stakes."

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