The launch of the Basketball Africa League, the new partnership between the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the NBA, has been put on hold after delays to its plans to put together a season caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Originally, prior to the outbreak of the global pandemic, March 13, 2020 had been set to be the opening night, with games slated for Dakar, Senegal. Those plans were unavoidably altered.
“Following the recommendation of the Senegalese government regarding the escalating health concerns related to the coronavirus, the BAL’s inaugural season will be postponed,” BAL President Amadou Gallo Fall said in a statement. “I am disappointed we are not able to tip off this historic league as scheduled but look forward to the highly-anticipated launch of the BAL at a later date.”
An NBA First
The league, which will have 12 teams spread across the African continent, marks the first time the NBA will operate a league outside North America.
“The Basketball Africa League is an important next step in our continued development of the game of basketball in Africa,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told Bleacher Report. “Combined with our other programs on the continent, we are committed to using basketball as an economic engine to create new opportunities in sports, media and technology across Africa.”
Ogoh Odaudu, head coach of the Port Harcourt Rivers Hoopers Basketball Club in Nigeria, thinks that the additional time could work to the league’s advantage and should also benefit each individual team’s preparations.
“For us as a team, it is a blessing in disguise because now we will get more time to actually prepare more and let our foreign players blend more with the team,” Odaudu said during an appearance on VOA’s Sonny Side of Sports.
The initial BAL season will see games played in Egypt (Cairo), Senegal (Dakar), Lagos Nigeria (Lagos), Angola (Luanda), Morocco (Rabat) and Tunisia (Monastir), with Rwanda (Kigali) playing host to the inaugural BAL Finals.
The following teams have qualified for the inaugural season of the BAL:
- Algeria – GS Pétroliers
- Angola – Petro de Luanda
- Cameroon – FAP
- Egypt- Zamalek
- Madagascar – GNBC
- Mali – AS Police
- Morocco – AS Salé
- Moçambique – Ferroviário de Maputo
- Nigeria – Port Harcourt Rivers Hoopers BC
- Rwanda – Patriots
- Senegal – As Douanes
- Tunisia – US Monastir
Each BAL club’s roster will include 16 players. Of those, 12 will be active for games. Each team must include at least eight players who will be citizens in their respective teams’ home country. A maximum of four players can be from other countries but no more than two players per team can be from outside of Africa.
You can bet on the African League in the same way you bet on the NBA online. But it isn’t just the NBA that is betting on the success of the BAL as they look to continue to grow the game of basketball in emerging markets. NIKE and Jordan Brand are the exclusive on-court outfitter of the new professional league. Fans can follow the BAL @theBAL on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and register their interest in receiving more information at www.theBAL.com.
Africa A Basketball Hotbed
This season, there were 22 players from Africa active on NBA rosters. The roster of the 2018-19 NBA champion Toronto Raptors included two key players from Africa – Pascal Siakam of Cameroon and Serge Ibaka of Congo. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri hails from Nigeria.
During the 2019-20 campaign, Siakam posted career highs in points (22.9), total rebounds (7.3), assists (3.5), steals (1.0) blocks (0.9) and minutes played (35.2) per game. He also hit a career-high 79.2 percent of his free throws.
Ibaka scored a career-best 15.4 ppg this season.
“For so long we knew the continent of Africa was a continent full of treasure,” retired Congolese NBA star Dikembe Mutombo said in a video posted on the BAL’s Twitter feed. “It was a question of time for those who want to go and find it.”
There are still four players from Africa who are in with a chance to earn the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA champions.
In the Eastern Conference final the Miami Heat include shooting guard Chris Silva from Gabon and point guard Gabe Vincent from Nigeria. Towering 7-foot-7 center Tacko Fall of Senegal features for the Boston Celtics, Miami’s opponent.
The Denver Nuggets suit up 7-foot-2 rookie center Bol Bol of Sudan in the Western Conference final. He is the son of former NBA player and African basketball legend Manute Bol.