Mar 4, 2022 - Sports

Basketball Africa League starts first season without a bubble

An NBA logo with the outline of Africa.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Basketball Africa League, jointly operated by the NBA and FIBA, begins its second season Saturday in Dakar, Senegal.

Why it matters: The inaugural season in 2020 was canceled due to COVID and last year's debut was condensed and bubbled. Finally, the BAL will go off as planned.

Details: 12 teams from 12 countries — split in two conferences — will play 38 games over the next three months in Senegal, Egypt and Rwanda, with games broadcast on ESPN+ and ESPN News.

  • Sahara Conference: US Monastir (Tunisia), DUC Dakar (Senegal), REG (Rwanda), AS Salé (Morocco), SLAC (Guinea), Ferroviário da Beira (Mozambique)
  • Nile Conference: Zamalek (Egypt), Petro de Luanda (Angola), Cape Town Tigers (South Africa), Cobra Sport (South Sudan), FAP (Cameroon), Espoir Fukash (DR Congo)

Fun fact: Eight-year NBA veteran Ty Lawson is playing for US Monastir, the first former NBA player to join the BAL.

The big picture: The NBA has hosted Basketball Without Borders camps in Africa since 2003, opened a league office in South Africa in 2010 and built a youth training academy in Senegal in 2017. This is the next step in growing the African pipeline.

  • Each BAL team will feature one teen from the academy, which has already seen 19 men's and women's players commit to D-I schools.

Zoom out: 22 current NBA players were born in 11 African countries, including MVP favorite Joel Embiid (Cameroon).

Go deeper: Guide to the BAL (ESPN)

Go deeper