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Angola’s Petro de Luanda wins 2024 Basketball Africa League Championship

IN an action-packed game in a sold-out BK Arena in Kigali, the Angolan team lifted the BAL trophy from north African hands for the first time, taking on the title from Egypt’s Al Ahly after beating Libya’s Al Ahly Ly in the finals.

ANGOLA’S Petro de Luanda clinched the 2024 Basketball Africa League (BAL) Championship, becoming the first team outside of North Africa to win the BAL finals after overpowering Libya’s Al Ahly Ly 107-94 in the finals.

The Angolans, who are also the 2022 BAL runners-up and one of only two teams to compete in all four BAL seasons, have broken a streak of previous champions from Egypt and Tunisia.

Past BAL champions include Egypt’s Zamalek, the 2021 champions, US Monastir of Tunisia, crowned champions in 2022, and Al Ahly of Egypt, the latest champions as of 2023.

According to Sandrine Nzeukou, founder of Playbook – a media platform focused on the business of emerging sports economies in Africa and the Middle East – the historical dominance of North African teams is unsurprising due to various advantages in the region’s basketball ecosystem.

“They have more established domestic basketball leagues and programs… countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt likely have a larger middle-class consumer and sponsor base to support professional basketball teams financially,” she explained in a LinkedIn post.

Apart from Petro de Luanda, some of the awardees in a post-finals ceremony led by BAL President Amadou Gallo Fall and President of FIBA Africa Anibal Manave included Al Ahly Ly forward Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. The South Sudanese-Australian player was feted with two major awards; the Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy for winning the 2024 BAL Most Valuable Player Award and the Dikembe Mutombo Trophy for being the 2024 BAL Defensive Player of the Year.

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Petro de Luanda’s journey to their historic victory was fiercely competitive. The Angolan team finished 5-2 in the Kalahari Conference group phase in Pretoria. They then triumphed over Senegal’s AS Douanes in the quarterfinals and South Africa’s Cape Town Tigers in the semifinals to secure their spot in the finals. Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers defeated the Cape Town Tigers 80-57 in the third-place game.

Ahly Ly’s Jo-Lual Acuil Jr. was also the 2024 BAL Scoring Champion and was named to the 2024 All-BAL First Team and All-BAL Defensive Team after leading Al Ahly Ly to a 5-4 record during the Nile Conference group phase in Cairo, and in the Playoffs, recording per game averages of 21.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.

Beyond the competition, the BAL has united several former NBA players, many of whom are considered some of the continent’s best basketball talents. These include BAL Ambassadors and NBA Africa investors Luol Deng (South Sudan), Ian Mahinmi (France, with ties to Benin), and Joakim Noah (whose grandfather is from Cameroon). Other notable figures are 2015 NBA champion Festus Ezeli (Nigeria) and New York Knicks President of G League Operations Pops Mensah-Bonsu (Ghana).

The BAL has also announced the 2024 Coach of the Year, Sportsmanship Award winner, All-BAL First Team, All-BAL Defensive Team, and Ubuntu Award winner. The voting panels varied for each award and comprised fans, coaches, team captains, media, broadcasters, and scouts.

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Rivers Hoopers head coach Odaudu Ogoh led his team to a third-place finish with a 6-3 record during the Sahara Conference group phase in Dakar, Senegal, and the Playoffs.

Rivers Hoopers point guard Will Perry received The Manute Bol Trophy for exemplifying the ideals of sportsmanship and camaraderie. Perry was also named to the 2024 All-BAL First Team.

The 2024 All-BAL First Team features standout players from across the league. Will Perry of Rivers Hoopers takes the point guard position, joined by Samkelo Cele of the Cape Town Tigers and Chris Crawford from US Monastir. The team also includes Al Ahly forward Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. and FUS Rabat’s Aliou Diarra.

The All-BAL 2024 Defensive Team also includes standout players known for their defensive prowess. Al Ahly’s point guard Souleyman Diabate leads the team, alongside guards Samkelo Cele of the Cape Town Tigers and Abdoulaye Harouna of AS Douanes. Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. and Aliou Diarra also earn spots on this elite defensive lineup.

AS Douanes guard and team captain Alkaly Ndour won the 2024 BAL Ubuntu Award in recognition of his ongoing efforts to use the game of basketball to impact the lives of youth in his native Senegal positively.

Ndour is the founder of “Kayelennioufo” (which translates to “Let’s have fun”), a basketball tournament for nearly 250 amateur players in his home neighbourhood of Bopp in Dakar. Ndour was presented with the 2024 BAL Ubuntu Trophy during an on-court ceremony on May 25 in conjunction with Africa Day.

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Notably, Petro’s victory underscores the expanding influence of the sport across the continent. According to a 2024 NBA report, live game viewerships, social media engagements, and merchandise sales have all experienced substantial growth, signalling a burgeoning interest in basketball.

However, in a past interview with bird, Silalei Shani, a basketball commentator and former Kenya basketball team captain, explained the increased numbers are because the “basketball audience is connecting more.”

“Basketball content is being packaged in exciting and entertaining ways,” she explained.

Across Africa, the ecosystem is booming thanks to major infrastructure upgrades. NBA is teaming up with private sector giants like Africell in Angola and Safaricom in Kenya to drive talent development programs and unveil basketball courts.

According to NBA Africa, the finals reached fans in 214 countries and territories in 17 languages.