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NBA Africa expands in the East

THE establishment of an office in East Africa rounds out the NBA's Africa-wide network and will help it target grassroots basketball.

NBA Africa has established a subsidiary in Nairobi, adding a fifth office to a network that includes Cairo, Johannesburg, Dakar, and Lagos.

According to NBA Africa/s new CEO, Victor Williams, the NBA Kenya office will bolster basketball within the country, especially in the school curriculum.

“We want to train more teachers and coaches in the game to strengthen the administration of the game by also offering clinics to referees. We also want to work with prospective partners who see the game as a vehicle to engage young people,” Williams explained.

The NBA launch event on November 29th included a junior NBA clinic attended by 70 boys and girls aged 16 and below. Notable figures present were five-time NBA champion, Ron Harper, NBA Africa CEO Victor Williams, Basketball Africa League President Amadou Gallo Fall, and NBA Kenya Senior Director and Country Operations Lead Michael Finley.

This move aligns with the Memorandum of Understanding signed in New York in September between the NBA and the Ministry of Sports in the presence of President William Ruto.

The NBA will collaborate with the Ministry of Sports, the Ministry of Education, the Kenya Basketball Federation, and other stakeholders to develop a comprehensive basketball ecosystem in Kenya and in the broader East African region.

Ron Harper, the five-time NBA champion, believes these initiatives will, in the long term, influence more youths to pursue their basketball dreams and ambitions.

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“In two years from today, we would love to see some of these kids get into junior academies to chase their dreams, education … I always say that in the next five to ten years, there are going to be a lot of NBA players from Africa,” he explained.

The NBA’s commitment to the continent’s basketball development has been catalyzed by the presence of world-class talent in the NBA league, leading to the establishment of various initiatives like the Basketball African League (BAL), a joint effort by FIBA and the NBA.

The BAL, a premier professional league featuring 12 club teams from across Africa, is set to begin its fourth season in March 2024, hosted in Egypt, Senegal, Rwanda, and South Africa for the first time.

Initiatives like the BAL and NBA Africa talent academies have increased the number of African players joining prominent global basketball clubs. In the ongoing 2023–24 NBA season, 15 players from Africa and an additional 35 players of African descent are featured, including standouts like Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, whose roots trace back to Nigeria. Antetokounmpo is anticipated to excel this season, with NBA GMs indicating his potential as one of the league’s finest players due to his exceptional basketball IQ, projecting him to be a top centre and passer.

The Nairobi office’s establishment holds the promise of revitalizing Kenya’s basketball ecosystem and potentially fostering a surge in basketball talent from the Eastern African region, providing avenues for support and opportunities in renowned clubs and leagues.

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Amadou Fall, President of the BAL, expressed optimism that the Nairobi office’s launch could pave the way for league events in Nairobi in the future.

“We are hoping to see a world-class arena being built here so that we can bring our world-class league here… We want to see Kenya file teams to play in the continental stage (U-16, U-18) and then have these young boys and girls dream about playing in local clubs,” he explained.

“The strength of your local league directly impacts the strength of your national team,” he added.