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Obama set for role with new African basketball league backed by NBA

Barack Obama has backed plans for a new basketball league in Africa and is set to take up a role with the project.

According to The Indepemdent, The former US president shared his support for the collaboration between the NBA and the basketball’s global governing body FIBA to create an elite competition involving several African countries.

He is expected to be “directly involved” with Basketball Africa League, although quite what role he will take remains unclear. 

“I’ve always loved basketball because it’s about building a team that’s equal to more than the sum of its parts. Glad to see this expansion into Africa because for a rising continent, this can be about a lot more than what happens on the court,” he tweeted.

The initial plan is for the 12-team league to begin playing in January 2020, but it yet to be determined which existing club teams will be part of the league.

Qualification tournaments will be held later this year to decicde those clubs, with teams from Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia expected to be among those taking part.

No nation will be allowed to have more than two teams in the league.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he was excited that Mr Obama wanted to have a role in the initiative, and said talks between the NBA and the former president are ongoing. 

“As we’ve been talking about this concept over the last several months, there’s been a tremendous reception from many of our NBA team owners... and in addition, several of the partners of the NBA have expressed a strong desire to work with us in Africa,” Mr Silver said.

The commissioner said Pepsi and Nike’s Jordan Brand – Michael Jordan was present for the announcement – are among the partners who have said they want to be part of the league.

Mr Obama spoke on a video shown during the launch event in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I hope you know through sport, that if you put in effort, you will be rewarded,” he said. “I hope you learn through sport what it means to play as a team, and even if you are the best player, your job is not just to show off but your job is to make your teammates better.” 

A huge fan of the sport, Mr Obama had a court installed on White House grounds during his time in office and often played pick-up games with staff.

The NBA and FIBA’s involvement will include financial support and resources toward continued growing of the game on the continent, as well as providing training for players, coaches and referees and some infrastructure for the new league.

Three NBA games have been held in Africa since 2015, including two games in Johannesburg, the other in Pretoria.

The league already has an office in South Africa, has helped create 87 training facilities in seven African nations. The league also built an academy in Senegal that opened nearly two years ago.

“We’re excited to work closely with the NBA to develop and put in a place a professional league like none that we have ever seen in our region before,” said FIBA Africa’s executive director Alphonse Bile.

“Through the Basketball Africa League, we can provide the many great clubs and players with the best possible environment to compete for the highest stakes.”

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