The Basketball Africa League (BAL) has just completed its second season, with US Monastir winning their first championship against Petro de Luanda 83-72. According to the NBA, the championship game reached fans in 215 countries.
The response to BAL
According to BAL Vice President, Strategy and Operations, John Manyo-Plange, the reaction to BAL from the global basketball community has been positive.
“The response has been tremendous. Last season was held at a single venue due to the pandemic, so this year’s caravan format allowed more fans across the continent to experience the excitement of BAL We have expanded the competition to a total of 38 matches in three cities in three months ), reigning champion of BAL Zamalek (Egypt) and REG (Rwanda) performed in front of fans in his hometown.”
Manyo-Plange also touched on the league’s recent expansion.
“This season, the BAL welcomed four new countries and seven new teams, including three qualified for the Playoffs: Cape Town Tigers (South Africa), Rwanda Energy Group (Rwanda) and Seydou Legacy Athlétique Club (Guinea). we heard expressed their support and appreciation for what the BAL is doing to transform the basketball ecosystem in Africa and inspire fans across the continent and around the world.
NBA Talent Injection
NBA fans will undoubtedly watch the BAL and dream of more talent making their way to the biggest and most popular basketball league in the world. Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors are both Cameroonian, and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks has ties to Nigeria. All three are in the upper echelon of NBA royalty, making Africa an attractive place to scout for other talent.
Manyo-Plange understands the point and believes the BAL can be used as a stepping stone to greater things, all while standing on its own two legs.
“The BAL provides a platform for the best players in Africa to showcase their talent on the world stage, which in turn inspires more young boys and girls who could be future BAL, NBA or WNBA players to play in the game. BAL joins Basketball Without Borders Africa and NBA Academy Africa in creating a platform and pathway for these top players to reach their potential. Additionally, this season we launched “BAL Elevate “, a new program that has placed an NBA Academy Africa prospect on each of the 12 BAL teams. The program provides an opportunity for the next generation of African prospects to compete at the professional level, show their talent on the world stage and help their respective teams to compete for the 2022 BAL Championship. We believe that as BAL continues to grow, so will the talent level, and the league will become a destination and springboard for the best players in the co ntinent.”
BAL’s long-term vision
Bringing a whole new league to the heart of Africa means more than just entertaining fans with basketball. This means potential growth in the financial sector, according to Manyo-Plange.
“We believe that basketball can become a top sport in Africa and that BAL can be one of the best professional leagues in the world in the next 10 years. BAL is a pan-African league, and our hope is that ‘as basketball, BAL and NBA Africa continue to grow, countries and governments will be incentivized to invest in the game and the infrastructure around it because they see the value in it: not just basketball -ball can be an engine of economic growth, but it also has power Overall, we are committed to making the BAL a world-class league that champions youth inclusion and development, promotes health and well-being, delivers an entertaining product for fans of all ages, exports our values and drives economic growth across the continent.”
Manyo-Plange adds that the league thinks it is just getting started and points to the NBA’s history in Africa as a driving force.
“The NBA has a long history in Africa and opened its African headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2010 before opening additional offices in Dakar, Senegal, and Lagos, Nigeria. The league’s efforts on the continent focused on improving access to basketball and the NBA through grassroots and elite development, social responsibility, media distribution, corporate partnerships, NBA Africa Games, BAL and more. And many of these efforts are pan-African in nature and reach both developed and developing countries. NBA games and programming are available in all 54 African countries, Jr. NBA has been implemented in 15 countries and the BAL brings together 12 professional teams from 12 countries each season.Even with all that we do to make basketball more accessible, we believe that we are only scratching the surface of the impact that the game can ut have on one of the youngest and fastest growing populations in the world. With the support of investors and strategic partners, including former US President Barack Obama and Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker, will contribute to future growth and open up opportunities for the NBA across the continent,” concludes Manyo-Plange.
Questions and Answers about Ike Diogu
Former NBA lottery pick Ike Diogu, who plays for Zamalek Basketball Club, is also excited about the league and agreed to do a Q&A.
After a long career that included over 200 NBA games and successful stints in China, what prompted you to join BAL?
“Obviously it’s the premier league in all of Africa, and as a basketball fan on the continent, I thought it was a good look for me. I’ve seen a lot of guy I knew playing in the inaugural season, so I was blessed and lucky to have the opportunity to play for Zamalek and my former coach, Coach Voigt.”
The league is obviously a major development for the African continent in terms of basketball. What do you think needs to be next for the NBA to see a stronger influx of African players?
“I think they just need to keep doing what they’re doing. It’s only year 2, so his popularity will continue to grow. Obviously everyone knows the immense talent that he has. ‘Africa, so really keep marketing and keep showing on TV, because a lot of people want to play in this league, because of the exposure. Every time the NBA gets attached, that comes with a great exhibit itself. So just keep doing what they have been doing.
BAL obviously needs to stand up as well, and not just be a farmers league for the NBA, so how does it balance that?
“It’s a league that’s still in its infancy, but it already has a lot of popularity that’s going to continue to grow. When you have someone like the NBA that definitely helps the league and the notoriety, it doesn’t will only continue to grow and get better and better, but eventually the league will acquire its own identity and be one of the best leagues in the world, in my opinion.
As a player, what have you seen in terms of player and fan reaction to the BAL being set up, and can you tell us a bit about the level of excitement around the future development of the league ?
“There’s a lot of excitement. Everyone keeps saying, especially when it comes to international competition, that the world is catching up with the United States. Especially when they say that, they’re talking about European countries, but Africa is right there. Africa is catching up. As far as everyone knows, we are producing top athletes, and now that they are learning the basics of the fundamentals, and when you combine those two things, “It’s scary. African basketball is on the rise. The presentation is big in BAL games, so the future is bright for Africa, and a lot of people are excited about BAL and its potential.”