Rivers Hoopers (Nigeria) vs. Patriots BBC (Rwanda) in the BAL
Rivers Hoopers vs. Rwanda Patriots in the Basketball Africa League (Cyril Ndegeya/Xinhua via Getty Images)
INVESTMENTS

African Basketball is a Billion-dollar Business

A new entity, NBA Africa, will oversee the league’s fast-growing operations on the continent.

The Basketball Africa League is barely a week old, but the NBA is wasting no time in finding new ways to keep the momentum going — and dream even bigger about what’s possible for the growth of the game.

On Monday, Commissioner Adam Silver announced the formation of NBA Africa, an entity that will serve to oversee all of the league’s business on the continent.

Even at this relatively early stage, Silver said he already estimates that business to be worth $1 billion.

Key investors in NBA Africa include a pair of Hall of Famers, Dikembe Mutombo and Grant Hill, as well as former All-Stars Joakim Noah and Luol Deng and 13-year veteran Junior Bridgeman.

Mutombo was the first NBA player from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he is a national hero and does extensive humanitarian work. Noah’s father hails from Cameroon, while Deng leads the South Sudan Basketball Federation and is the former coach of the country’s national team.

“With the expertise, resources and shared vision, the immensely successful investors and NBA legends, we believe that basketball in Africa can become a top sport over the next decade,” Silver said during a media call Monday.

He indicated that NBA Africa will focus on investments ranging from infrastructure to player development to fan engagement.

“There is enormous optimism to bring and generate content directly to and from the people, and the expectation is that the explosion of smartphones on the continent is a true game-changer,” the commissioner said, adding that 55 NBA players were either born in Africa or have strong family ties there.

The Basketball Africa League is off to a spirited start, with award-winning rapper J. Cole among its players and games available to stream on ESPN platforms. And while any inaugural season won’t be without its hiccups, the formation of NBA Africa as a permanent, far-reaching entity is the strongest evidence yet that those at the highest levels of basketball are bullish about the long-term potential of the sport on the continent not just as a competitive product, but a community change-maker for the developing world.

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