Friday, June 14, 2024

The N.B.A. in Africa

Tania Ganguli, The N.B.A. Sees Its Future in Africa, NYTimes, June 14, 2024.

The N.B.A. has been promoting basketball in Africa for more than 20 years, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the effort. The aim is to cultivate an immense potential fan base, the way it has in China, while also tapping into the rich talent pool on the continent. Much of the league’s work is concentrated in Senegal, where it operates an academy for high-school-age players, an N.B.A. Africa office and the headquarters of the Basketball Africa League. N.B.A. Africa’s investors include former N.B.A. players and former President Barack Obama (who also has an equity stake). The B.A.L. was announced in 2019 with FIBA, the sport’s international governing body. Its first season was in 2021.

Although N.B.A. Africa is not yet profitable, the investment seems to be producing results. Soccer may still be the king of sports on the continent, but basketball is becoming increasingly popular. People throughout Africa play on local club teams and in after-school programs. The N.B.A. has generated plenty of good will by building courts, libraries and homes; administering basketball camps and other development programs; and supporting gender equality. But some wonder about the league’s long-term commitment and whether the support needed for basketball to flourish can be sustained.

“As much as we are investing in Africa, the opportunity is so enormous I worry that we’re under investing,” Adam Silver, the N.B.A. commissioner, said in an interview. “There’s so much opportunity, but it’s not always easy to know how to deploy capital, which government you should be dealing with, who the honest brokers are. And so we’re learning as we go.”

Currently "about 10 percent of N.B.A. players are either African or have at least one parent from Africa," but most are African-American.

There's much more at the link.

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