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African basketball league gets NBA backing

EXCITED: Dikembe Mutombo

THE NATIONAL Basketball Association (NBA) is teaming up with the International Basketball Federation to launch a professional league in Africa in January 2020.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver made the announcement during NBA All-Star Weekend on Saturday (Feb 16), marking the NBA’s first professional league outside of North America.

Speaking at the launch in North Carolina, Congo native and Basketball Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo told The Undefeated: “It’s a big celebration. It is a dream come true for all of us. I was fortunate enough to play this game and dreamed of something like this happening in the continent. Today, we see that. I don’t have to explain the importance of it to myself.

“I was the first player to ask commissioner Silver to come to Africa. We were trying to find a way to grow the game on the continent. Now, the commissioner made it happen with the league. No more just going and playing a [exhibition] game. This is great.”

Other big names in attendance at the launch event included Michael Jordan and Chris Tucker. During the launch, it was revealed that BAL will include professional clubs from Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.

Former US president Barack Obama also shared his excitement at the NBA’s international plans. He tweeted: “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.”

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