BAL Combine a huge success
The first of its kind outside North America, and something many young African kids aspire to be part of just became tangible back in February, 2019 when Adam Silver made the announcement that the NBA would be launching the Basketball Africa League (BAL) in 2020.
The NBA commissioner made the announcement at NBA Africa’s annual luncheon during All-Star Weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. Post the announcement the excitement about the league seemed to have subsided and not much was being said about the BAL until the big announcement that Amadou Gallo Fall would be president of the BAL and that 12 teams will participate in the league.
Another first concerning Basketball in Africa and the NBA happened, in Brooklyn this time where the BAL (an affiliate of the NBA) conducted a two-day scouting combine featuring 50 players from Africa and the diaspora. These players took part in anthropometric and athletic testing, positional skill development and 5-on-5 games in hopes of showcasing their talents and getting selected by a team. “We are looking for raw talent that we can develop and cultivate, guys who have a skill that you can build on.” said G League team Capital City Go-Go General Manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu (Ghana) one of 20 scouts present at the combine. Familiar faces like Kenyan-American Alonzo Nelson-Ododa and Cheikh Diallo from Senegal were in attendance.
In April of this year (International Labour Organization) ILO announced that the youth unemployment rate in Africa is expected to exceed 30% this year, and young people will continue to be 3.5 times more likely than adults to be unemployed. “The goal of the league is to build an industry on the continent that is going to flourish and self-sustain, create jobs not only for the players on the court but as well as administrators like you see in any professional sport.”
said Fall. This is a win for the continent of Africa, as the league will render several job opportunities.
The combine was special, and a historical moment for the NBA, launching a league outside of North America for the first time and having cogent scouts looking for the best talent for the BAL proving that teams are looking for something cardinal to bring to their roster. The BAL offers a new market for players to look into, something different than what they have been exposed to playing in the US and the diaspora and of course exposure. It’s business as usual and as entertaining the game of basketball is the experience includes entertainment and then some. “We can expect an incredible level of entertainment, we are looking to build a lifestyle brand and basketball on the court is going to be world class level but we are also going to attract people from the arts, music and fashion and that’s what this league is about.” said Fall.
The league will be played in a caravan tour style, making stops in 16 countries with the final being hosted by President Paul Kagame at The Kigali Arena in Rwanda, the arena officially opened in August 2019 and has a 10 000 capacity. Fans on the continent and the diaspora have something special to look forward to, a once in a lifetime experience and dreams fulfilled for many and what better place could this happen than the rich continent of Africa.
By Nthabiseng Mushi
@nthabi4real on instagram