NBA's Basketball Africa League to Start Inaugural Season on May 16

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2021

FILE - In this Nov. 1, 2018 file photo, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announces that the Cleveland Cavaliers will host the 2022 NBA All Star game during a news conference in Cleveland. The NBA is bringing a pro league to Africa. The Basketball Africa League, a new collaboration between the NBA and the sport's global governing body FIBA, was announced Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The NBA's Basketball Africa League will debut on May 16, with all 26 games this season taking place in Kigali, Rwanda, per Marc J. Spears of ESPN.

The league was set to begin in 2020 but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Safety protocols will also limit travel this season despite initial plans for games to take place across the continent.

BAL President Amadou Gallo Fall: 

"We are thrilled that the inaugural Basketball Africa League season will take place at the world-class Kigali Arena. Through the BAL, we will provide a platform for elite players from across the continent to showcase their talent and inspire fans of all ages, use basketball as an economic growth engine across Africa, and shine a light on Africa's vibrant sporting culture."

The league will feature 12 teams, all from different countries. Representatives from Angola, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia earned their way as winners of their respective national leagues, while teams from Algeria, Cameroon, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique and Rwanda earned spots in BAL qualifying tournaments.

It creates a continental championship for elite teams, similar to the EuroCup. The major difference being the involvement of the NBA, marking the first collaboration to operate a league outside of North America.

"It is a dream come true for all of us," Basketball Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo said when the league was announced in 2019, per Spears. "I was fortunate enough to play this game and dreamed of something like this happening in the continent. Today, we see that. I don't have to explain the importance of it to myself."

Each team in the tournament will play at least three games in the group stage. A single-elimination, eight-team playoff will then determine the champion with the BAL finals currently scheduled for May 30.