NBA will Invest Millions of Dollars in Basketball Africa League
The NBA generated $8 billion in revenue last season, according to Forbes, and industry players say audience interest in Africa has grown alongside the profile of Africans playing in the world's top basketball league
The NBA will invest millions of dollars in Basketball Africa League, its first professional league outside of North America, and will be hands-on in its operation, a top executive said Tuesday.
The NBA, in partnership with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), is launching the Basketball Africa League in January 2020, featuring 12 teams from across the continent.
“This league will be fully operated by the NBA,” Amadou Gallo Fall, the NBA’s vice president for Africa, told Reuters by phone from Johannesburg. “Our expertise and best practices will be on display.”
The NBA generated $8 billion in revenue last season, according to Forbes, and industry players say audience interest in Africa has grown alongside the profile of Africans playing in the world’s top basketball league.
Cameroon’s Joel Embiid, a 25-year-old center for the Philadelphia 76ers, has emerged as a top player in the NBA, signing a five-year contract with the team worth nearly $150 million in 2017.
This season, Embiid and 24-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, born in Greece to Nigerian parents, are contenders to become the NBA’s most valuable player.
The NBA established an Africa office nine years ago. It held its first NBA Africa game in 2015. Games in 2017 and 2018 were played in front of sold-out crowds in South Africa.
Basketball Africa League will involve six national champions — from Nigeria, Angola, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Senegal — who will automatically qualify for the competition. The remaining six will come through international qualifiers later this year.
“It’s an opportunity through our partnership with FIBA to continue to strengthen the basketball ecosystem here,” Fall said.
He did not confirm exactly how much the NBA would be investing in the league but said it was millions of dollars.
African NBA players
As the NBA courts African audiences, African players have been conquering the NBA.
There were 13 African-born players on the rosters of NBA teams at the opening of the 2018/19 season, out of the 108 international players. That rises to about 40 if players with African parents are included, Fall said.
“It tremendously impacts the growth in popularity of the NBA,” he added.
The NBA began in March livestreaming on YouTube two games a week for free for viewers in sub-Saharan Africa, in a bid to build a larger fan base on the continent.
The league opened an elite basketball academy in Senegal in 2017 which, along with its Basketball Without Borders Africa program, has showcased African talent hoping to play for NBA teams or U.S. colleges.
The next step is for an African basketball team to secure an Olympic medal, Fall said.
Unable to send disease fighters to help battle one of the deadliest Ebola outbreaks in history, U.S. health officials are turning to basketball hall of famer Dikembe Mutombo for help.
Mutombo, regarded as one of the greatest defensive players in NBA history and a well-known philanthropist in his native Congo, recorded radio and video spots designed to persuade people to take precautions and get care that might stop the disease’s spread.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began posting the spots Monday on its YouTube channel and on the agency’s website . Officials are trying to get radio and TV stations in the Democratic Republic of Congo to air them.
More than 2,200 people have been reported ill — and about 1,500 have died — since an Ebola outbreak was declared in August in eastern Congo. It is the second deadliest outbreak of the lethal virus, which jumps from person to person quickly through close contact with bodily fluids.
Rebel attacks and community resistance have hurt Ebola response work in Congo. A World Health Organization doctor was killed in April, health centers have been attacked and armed groups have repeatedly threatened health workers. Because of safety concerns, the U.S. State Department last year ordered CDC disease specialists to stay out of the outbreak areas.
Mutombo, who moved to the U.S. in the 1980s intending to pursue a medical degree, told The Associated Press he understands where the distrust comes from.
“Someone who doesn’t look like you, who doesn’t think like you, who is not from your village, who is from other places, just walk to your village with a nice beautiful white truck and telling you … ‘inject this chemical into your body to protect you from this deadly virus.’ That’s where there’s a fight. This is where we’re having a conflict,” he said.
“How do you that build trust? That’s the big problem we’re having in the Congo,” he said. “I believe as a son of Congo, I think my voice can be heard. Because everyone in the country knows my commitment to the humanity and the health.”
The idea for the PSA was sparked in February when Mutombo, a member of the CDC Foundation’s governing board who lives in Atlanta, was talking with Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC’s director.
“We are deeply appreciative of his interest to try to get accurate information to the community,” Redfield said.
Mutombo, who turns 53 on Tuesday, previously did public service announcements focused on polio and yellow fever. A dozen years ago, his foundation established a 300-bed hospital on the outskirts of his hometown of Kinshasa.
The new spots were recorded in Kiswahili, French and Lingala. They talk about recognizing the early signs of Ebola, early treatment and prevention measures. (VOA)