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Forest Whitaker and NBA team up to promote community basketball in Africa

THE Hollywood actor added star appeal to the ribbon-cutting event at a basketball court in Athlone, South Africa. The event, a partnership between NBA Africa, the City of Cape Town and the Whitaker Peace and Development initiative, unveiled a community court created to promote youth sports in the area.

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, November 21, 2023 (bird) – Hollywood actor and peace and development activist Forest Whitaker on Tuesday joined NBA Africa CEO Victor Williams and Cape Town Deputy Mayor Eddie Andrews in the troubled Athlone suburb of Cape Town for the opening of a community basketball court that Whitaker said would offer a safe space for youths to become future champions.

“Its goal is to nurture healthy bodies and healthy minds, providing the children and the youths of the community with a safe space where they can strengthen their stamina and their character. It is a place that will cultivate future NBA champions. When youth play basketball here, I want them to have a lot of fun, but I also want them to know that each dribble can take them towards a better life — for their community, for Cape Town, and one day perhaps even for the world,” said Whitaker, who is CEO of the Whitaker Peace and Development Foundation.

Whitaker, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Ugandan president Idi Amin in the Hollywood movie The Last King of Scotland, is no stranger to Africa. He is also a strategic investor in NBA Africa which is an affiliate of the National Basketball Association (NBA), whose mission is to inspire and connect people everywhere through the power of basketball.

NBA Africa conducts the league’s business in Africa, including the Basketball Africa League (BAL). The BAL, a partnership between the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and NBA Africa, is a professional league featuring 12 club teams from across Africa that will tip off its fourth season in March 2024.

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“We’re excited to unveil this beautiful basketball court with the City of Cape Town and Forest Whitaker, which builds on our previous initiatives to provide more young people in South Africa with safe spaces to learn and play the game,” NBA Africa CEO Victor Williams said.

Against the backdrop of scores of youths practising their moves on the brightly coloured new court on a day when the Cape Doctor, or southeasterly, hurled clouds across the sky and dust across the court, community leader Chris Osborne said the court opening meant that the largely mixed-race, or “coloured” community was being seen and recognised.

“This will give us the opportunity to take (sports) development to the next level and that excites us no end,” he said.

“These kids have hope. They can see that things can get better, that there is a better tomorrow, there is a future for them. There’s a new narrative.”

WPDI launched its programs in the Cape Flats in 2019. Since then, it has impacted over 48,500 people, trained 360 youth peacemakers from the townships, provided training to 24,235 pupils and teachers from 89 schools, and supported the launch of 66 youth-led and women-led businesses.