The NBA is furthering its attempts to grow its brand – and commercial fortunes – in Africa by creating a professional league in the continent in partnership with Fiba, the sport’s global governing body.
The 12-team Basketball Africa League, announced at the NBA All-Star Weekend in Charlotte on Saturday, is set to begin play in January 2020.
Qualification tournaments will be held later this year to determine which existing clubs will participate in the Uefa Champions League-style tournament. Teams from Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia expected to be among those taking part. No nation will have more than two teams in the league.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league – the NBA’s first outside of North America – is “an important next step in our continued development of the game of basketball in Africa”.
Pepsi and Nike’s Jordan Brand are among the NBA partners who have expressed an interest to be part of the Africa league. Former US president Barack Obama will also be involved in the league in an unspecified capacity.
“Africa is a huge economic engine,” Silver added. “And one place, though, where we haven’t seen enormous economic growth yet is in the industry of sport. And that’s something that we are all particularly focused on.”
More than 80 current and former NBA players are from Africa or have ties to the continent.
It was also announced that by the start of the 2019-20 season, the league will have a revamped direct-to-consumer offering of NBA games for fans in Africa.