Mar 30, 2021 - Sports

NBA's Africa League to debut May 16

An NBA logo with the outline of Africa.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The NBA's Basketball Africa League will make its long-awaited debut with a 12-team tournament beginning May 16 in Kigali, Rwanda.

Why it matters: The NBA's attempt at operating a league outside of North America is part of a long-term plan to make the league synonymous with competitive basketball around the world.

The teams:

  1. Algeria
  2. Angola
  3. Cameroon
  4. Egypt
  5. Madagascar
  6. Mali
  7. Morocco
  8. Mozambique
  9. Nigeria
  10. Rwanda
  11. Senegal
  12. Tunisia

The big picture: The BAL will strengthen the NBA's talent pipeline in Africa, which has already produced over 80 current and former players, including 2021 MVP candidate Joel Embiid (Cameroon).

  • It will also help foster a more robust basketball landscape in Africa itself, with players not just dreaming of going abroad, but also of making a name for themselves in Africa.
  • The NBA has hosted Basketball Without Borders camps throughout Africa since 2003, opened an official league office in South Africa in 2010 and built a training academy in Senegal in 2017.

The bottom line: The NBA has spent the last 25 years importing a surge of international talent — now it hopes to benefit by exporting the brand those global stars have helped build.

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