The North American NBA basketball league has confirmed that it will stage an exhibition game in South Africa next August.
The announcement was made by the NBA’s deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, who was in Johannesburg for a Basketball Without Borders camp held by the league. Details regarding the teams that will play in the exhibition game are yet to be confirmed.
By staging the game, the NBA will become the first US professional league to play a game on the continent. Tatum said that the move was “a pretty big deal” and represented “an evolution of our commitment to continuing to bring basketball to the continent of Africa.” He told the Associated Press news agency: “The involvement of our players in growing the game internationally and on a global basis is critical and it's important, and I think that our players understand that and I think that the basketball community understands that.”
The NBA has held Basketball Without Borders training camps in South Africa on a regular basis since 2003. The camps feature up to 60 top young African players.
“Whether they make it all the way to the NBA or they take those learnings and they work hard enough to earn a scholarship at a university, those things are all rewarding for us and it's a really rewarding thing to be a part of,” Tatum said. “It's not just going on to play in the NBA – some of our players and our campers will get that opportunity – it's also making contributions to growing the game of basketball in other ways as well.”