Recently, the United States’ National Basketball Association (NBA) unveiled its new entity, NBA Africa. Formation of this entity was financed by a consortium of strategic investors led by Nigeria’s Babatunde “Tunde” Folawiyo of the Yinka Folawiyo Group and Tope Lawani of the Helios Fairfax Partners Corporation (HFP). The venture is billed as the NBA’s first league to be operated outside North America and will include the Basketball Africa League (BAL) which is a partnership between the NBA and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).
The new entity’s affairs will be piloted by its Board of Directors including Victor Williams (CEO), Tunde Folawiyo, Tope Lawani, Adam Silver (NBA Commissioner) and NBA Deputy Commissioner/Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. Additional investors in NBA Africa include NBA Global Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and other NBA Legends Junior Bridgeman, Luol Deng (South Sudan), Grant Hill and Joakim Noah.
As part of unveiling the new entity, the maiden season of Basket Africa League took place in Kigali, Rwanda amid great success and celebrations. Twelve of the top club teams from 12 African countries competed against each other. The final game for the ultimate trophy was played on Sunday, May 30, 2021 and was attended by Rwanda President Paul Kagame and French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron. Zamalek Sporting Club of Cairo, Egypt won the final game against Union Sportive Monastirienne of Monastir, Tunisian. It is hoped that the success of this maiden season carries over to future seasons and also help fast-track the growth of basketball across Africa.
Indeed, the new NBA Africa entity and league is receiving kudos among all stakeholders. In his comments, Tunde Folawiyo stated that he is excited about his involvement and noted that “Sport has always been a unifier in Africa.” He added that Africans “have always excelled in most fields, often far from home and against all odds.” And in his own comments, Tope Lawani touted Helios’ records in achieving business success and noted that “this is a unique opportunity for us to do so in the world of sport by partnering with the NBA, a truly best-in-class operator.”
The NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also expressed great optimism for the future of basketball in Africa and remarked that there are “enormous opportunities” for the NBA in the continent. Indeed, he stated that “basketball can become a top sport across Africa over the next decade.” In his comments, Dikembe Mutombo who is one of the first African players to make an impact in the NBA, said he hoped the new NBA Africa will mean that “countless more players will have the opportunity to follow in [his] footsteps in the years ahead.”
The NBA has been in Africa since 2010 when it first opened its African headquarters in Johannesburg. And for the last decade, NBA’s activities in Africa were led by Amadou Gallo Fall, who was Vice President of NBA and Managing Director of NBA Africa. He is a Senegalese professional basketball executive who served as the Dallas Mavericks’ Director of Player Personnel and Vice President of International Affairs for 12 years. Amadou is the founder of SEED Project, (Sports for Education and Economic Development) which promotes the development of sports in African youth and aims to provide opportunities for student-athletes to further their education through basketball. The SEED Academy, which was launched in Senegal in 2002, became the first basketball student-athlete academy in Africa.
Another former professional basketball player and coach of African origin who is closely following the footsteps of Amadou Gallo Fall, Dikembe Mutombo and Luol Deng to promote basketball in Africa and empower African youths is Nigerian-American Tunde Adekola. After playing university-level basketball in the United States and then professionally and working as a coach in both in the USA and Europe, Tunde has focused his efforts on using basketball to empower and provide opportunities to African youths. As a member of the basket Talent Identification team of NBA and FIBA Basketball Without Borders, he has been instrumental in developing basketball in West Africa and recruiting youths to gain basketball scholarships into universities in the United States. Recently, in collaboration with Amadou Gallo Fall, Tunde has established Sports for Education & Economic Development (SEED) Basketball Academy in Lagos, Nigeria. The Lagos SEED Academy partners with Nigerian high schools to develop and deploy the power of basketball as a tool for social, academic and entrepreneurial empowerment among African youths.
Regarding the new NBA Africa entity, Tunde noted that this “is a game-changer not only for basketball but for all sports as a whole in Africa” because it will shape sport management and the “conversations around sports.” He also expressed happiness that the newly formed NBA Africa entity attracted African investors and said he is encouraged “to see two key businessmen from the continent particularly from Nigeria making mega investment in basketball in Africa.”
This article was written by our Contributor Henry D. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You too can start earning money by becoming our Independent Reporter or Contributor. Contact us at IR@downtownafrica.com
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