The Basketball Africa League is Constructing Its Basis for the Current and Future


As a young boy growing up in Senegal, Amadou Gallo Fall recalls hearing the first time the game of basketball over the airwaves on his home radio. He didn’t have to watch the game to visualize its beauty and the dominance with which the Senegalese national basketball team played.

“I mean, there was a generation of players that was incredible,” Fall says of the players of his time. “You have won everything in Africa year after year.”

The Senegalese team won the FIBA ​​African Championship for women (now known as Afrobasket) from 1974 to 1993, a series of sheer dominance that has not been immortalized by a single country on the continent since. But it wasn’t until the age of 17 that Fall, then 6-8 years old, was really introduced to the game. It was only when he came to the States that basketball unfolded its full effect and shifted his life’s work to further expanding the infrastructure of football on the continent.

In May 2019, Fall was named President of the Basketball Africa League, a brand new partnership between FIBA ​​and the NBA, in which 12 clubs from all over Africa participated. Many of us in the States tuned in to see our SLAM 232 cover athlete J. Cole get his first jump on the professional stage at the Rwandan Patriots.

However, the league’s successful launch last May marks the beginning of a journey that Gallo Fall, the NBA and FIBA ​​have been working towards for decades.

“We launched Basketball Without Borders in 2003. And you see, the appetite is growing, and there are obvious reasons why we should get more involved, too, because there was tremendous potential to develop the sport beyond the individual players who got into the NCAA schools, or even “everyone.” Year in the NBA, ”Fall told SLAM.

Herbst graduated magna cum laude from the University of District of Columbia, a historically black college with a Division II basketball program, with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1997. Since then, he has helped lay the foundations of basketball on the continent that is now home to greats like Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam and Joel Embiid.

In 2003, Fall helped found the Basketball Without Frontiers program, which paved the way for African-born players to advance to the league.

“He’s the godfather of the basketball community in Africa,” Loul Deng told The Undefeated in June.

The BAL marks the first collaboration with the NBA to run a professional league outside of North America and it really shows the continent’s potential to become one of the most popular gaming fans.

“We have the talent on the continent, you know, like nowhere else,” says Fall SLAM. “And you can see that in the presence of African players in the NBA. From a talent point of view, it’s child’s play. “

Talent on the continent has always been paramount, but for the fall, the next step is to evolve the entire basketball ecosystem to match the level of talent they possess. The league will always be there, but Fall hopes to retain the talent and resources they have worked decades to develop.

“We’re talking about this league being an engine for economic growth,” says Fall. “It’s about seeing the infrastructure develop, both the physical infrastructure with arenas and all the amenities you need for a world-class league. But also build capacities from a professional point of view. “

This is where Victor Williams, the newly appointed CEO of NBA Africa, comes in.

Williams’ first introduction to the game took place at Siaka Stevens Stadium in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where he watched exhibition games by children who had returned from the United States to showcase their newfound skills. But it wasn’t until he first came to the United States that he was able to play the game himself.

“And then my first memory of the game was when I saw the Lakers on TV when I first came to the US and became a Lakers fan and fell in love with the game,” Williams tells SLAM.

Out of sheer instinct, Williams automatically begins shedding the Showtime Lakers stars; Magic Johnson, Byron Scott, James Worthy, Kurt Rambis and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, plus AC Green, Michael Cooper and Mychal Thompson.

“You could probably name the entire 12-man squad,” Amadou said to all of us at the Zoom call.

“I could!” Williams replies with a laugh.

“That’s exactly the kind of fan he is,” says Amadou.

However, the reason Williams was inducted into NBA Africa – a new entity announced in May that will lead the league’s affairs in Africa – is because of the combination of his passionate admiration for the game coupled with his extensive knowledge of corporate and corporate governance Bringing business growth to the table.

For the past five years, Williams was Executive Head of Corporate and Investment Banking for Standard Bank of South Africa. Prior to that, he was Vice President of Investment Banking at Goldman Sachs and Securities Managing Director at Wells Fargo.

Williams’ knowledge of growing businesses across the continent is unmatched. It becomes clear on our Zoom call as he introduces the business venture he sees in front of him at the NBA Africa office in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“We’re talking about building a major basketball and commercial company on the African continent that will make the NBA and BAL the top sports lifestyle brands on the continent over the next 10 years,” says Williams compared to SLAM.

He speaks of an ecosystem. One that Gallo Fall has helped build since the BWB program started. In it, NBA Africa enables children to get to know the game and receive basic coaching close to their home. From there, Williams dreams of building more infrastructure across the continent so that talented individuals can further hone their craft in hopes of making a BAL list or even adding their names to the NBA draft this spring.

Working with FIBA, NBA Africa will work to improve every facet of the game that has captured the heart of a continent. Coaching and referee development programs, further promoting the NBA academies, and making more indoor facilities available to the public.

From a commercial perspective, Williams sees great potential for basketball within the continent. Thanks to eight broadcast partnerships curated by Williams, Fall, and the NBA Africa office, the summer BAL Games reached 215 countries and territories in 15 different languages.

And then, in the midst of a lot of knowledge, Williams drops us a perfectly placed dime, one with the potential to be a sensational highlight.

“We want to bring more NBA games to the continent, pre-season games and maybe one day even a regular season game (NBA) so people can play,” Williams told SLAM.

Less than a year after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expanded plans to create the BAL, Fall and the league announced several social justice initiatives that focus on raising awareness of gender-based violence, promoting the education of women, increasing the number of people living there Women’s participation in basketball and the social economy focus uptake.

“One of our commitments with BAL is to take a leadership role in solving societal issues wherever we do business,” explains Fall. “Wherever we organize our BAL games, regardless of the country, we want to hire and do business with local companies, local vendors and service providers as much as possible. I think the BAL will give us the opportunity to apply that. How can you get in touch with most small and medium-sized businesses looking to build capacity in merchandising, content production, broadcasting, etc.? . “

Years of ambition, months of work through a pandemic, and contributions from investors such as former NBA legends Dikembe Mutombo, Grant Hill, Loul Deng and Junior Bridgeman have brought Africa closer to cementing a world-renowned professional basketball league while leveraging the talent and talent available To promote resources for those who dream of a basketball career.

Rather than coming to the States to fully immerse themselves in basketball culture, Gallo Fall and Williams can introduce children to the continent’s own basketball culture in their own backyard.

“Like a young player, no matter where on the continent, they can realistically dream of being introduced to the game, playing at the grassroots level and ultimately making it to the pros,” says Fall. “And I think for me the knock-out effect that the BAL will have is the strengthening of the various national leagues across the continent, that’s what I’m looking forward to the most. Because there you will see the real growth of the sport. “





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