While it might have gone unnoticed by some in the midst of all the excitement generated by the new rules and their effects on the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, a hugely important announcement concerning the NBA’s long-term growth was made in Chicago.
Speaking with league commissioner Adam Silver, Basketball Africa League (BAL) president Amadou Gallo Fall revealed the 12 teams that will participate in the new league’s inaugural season, slated to begin next month.
Joined by NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts, NBA Global Ambassador and former NBA center Dikembe Mutombo, as well as International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Secretary General Andreas Zagklis, Diallo addressed the room full of NBA luminaries regarding the birth of the new continent-spanning league.
“This is a historic moment as we welcome the 12 teams that will participate in our inaugural season,” offered Fall. “These teams have earned the opportunity to represent their respective countries and will establish the BAL as a world-class product that entertains fans of all ages when the season tips off March 13.”
The new league was created around six African teams granted automatic membership into the BAL after winning their own respective national leagues.
Those teams include the Petro de Luanda club of Angola, the Zamalek of Egypt; AS Salé of Morocco, the Rivers Hoopers Basketball Club of Nigeria, the AS Douanes of Senegal and Union Sportive Monastirienne of Tunisia.
The other six teams of the BAL were selected from the winners of a 32-team qualifying tournament, which were the GSP of Algeria, the FAP of Cameroon, the GNBC of Madagascar, AS Police of Mali, Ferroviàrio de Maputo of Mozambique and Patriots Basketball Club of Rwanda.
The BAL will be structured to have two conferences, with each franchise playing five games. The leading six teams at the end of the regular season going on to play a single-elimination tourney for the league’s championship.
Regular season games will be played in Cairo, Dakar, Lagos, Luanda, Monastir, and Salé, with the championship in Kigali, Rwanda. Nike and Jordan Brand will outfit the players as official BAL partners. Fittingly, given the announcement’s location, former Chicago Bulls standout Luol Deng will serve as an official ambassador for the BAL, which will serve as one of several paths for local prospects to train for and eventually get to the NBA.
No word yet on whether those of us in Europe and the Americas will be able to enjoy the games through some sort of online streaming or broadcast package, but with the league gearing up to focus on reaching new, less-traditional audiences with reduced access to cable television and residential internet, streaming seems the more logical option to grow local interest in the sport, and international interest in the new league.