On the day of the NBA All Star game, commissioner Adam Silver announced that former President Obama will be involved in a project to develop a basketball league in Africa, the NBA’s first league outside of the U.S.
The NBA will partner with FIBA, the international governing body for the sport, to form the 12-team league, which is expected open January 2020.
Obama, an avid basketball fan, will have hands-on involvement with league as well.
There are already several professional teams across Africa, but this league will attempt to unify them into one place while providing financial support, resources and training.
There will be qualifying tournaments held to determine which teams make the league with the nations of Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia likely to be represented.
Since the end of his presidency in 2017, Obama has helped Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, who hails from Nigeria, with the Giants of Africa youth basketball program.
I’ve always loved basketball because it’s about building a team that’s equal to more than the sum of its parts. Glad to see this expansion into Africa because for a rising continent, this can be about a lot more than what happens on the court. https://t.co/lghcLaUN9a
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 16, 2019
“As we’ve been talking about this concept over the last several months, there’s been a tremendous reception from several of our NBA team owners,” Silver said.
The NBA has heavily invested in Africa with programs such as Basketball Without Borders and Giants of Africa in addition to having an office in South Africa and academy in Senegal.
The league’s investment over the years has helped raise the number of active NBA players from Africa to 13 this season.
That includes Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid as well as former first-rounders Al-Farouq Aminu, Bismack Biyombo, Gorgui Dieng, Emmanuel Mudiay and Pascal Siakam.
Although the this will be the first time the league is directly involved in an operation outside of North America, the NBA has put on three games in Africa in the last five years.
In the most recent NBA Africa game, Team World edged out Team Africa 96-92 despite a game-high 24 points from Embiid.