Basketball: NBA, FIBA announce plans for African pro league

Former US President Barack Obama.
Former US President Barack Obama will be involved in the running of the league. Photo credit: Getty

The NBA's first professional basketball league outside of North America will begin in Africa next year, the NBA and the sport's global governing body have announced.

Basketball Africa League (BAL) will feature 12 club teams from across Africa and will launch next January, the NBA, and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) said on Sunday (NZ time).

NBA commissioner Adam Silver also announced that former US President Barack Obama will also be involved.

Silver said Mr Obama told him he wants to have a direct role in the league, the specifics of which have yet to be determined.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Photo credit: Reuters

"The Basketball Africa League is an important next step in our continued development of the game of basketball in Africa," Mr Silver said in a statement.

"Combined with our other programs on the continent, we are committed to using basketball as an economic engine to create new opportunities in sports, media and technology across Africa."

The NBA has a long history in Africa, and 13 African-born players are on opening- night rosters.

More than 80 current and former players from Africa or with direct family ties to the continent, including Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria) and Dikembe Mutombo (Democratic Republic of Congo), have competed in the NBA.

The NBA and FIBA said they plan to conduct qualification tournaments later this year to identify the 12 teams that would represent several African countries, including Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.

No more than two teams from the same country will play in the league.