Basketball Africa League

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Basketball Africa League
Organising bodyNBA
FIBA
FoundedFebruary 2019; 5 years ago (2019-02)
First season2021
CountryFIBA Africa member countries
ConfederationFIBA Africa
Divisions3
Number of teams12
Current championsEgypt Al Ahly
(1st title)
(2023)
Most championshipsEgypt Al Ahly
Tunisia US Monastir
Egypt Zamalek (1 title)
All-time top scorerChris Crawford
(341 points)
CommissionerAmadou Gallo Fall
TV partners
WebsitetheBAL.com
2024 BAL season

The Basketball Africa League (BAL) is the premier men's basketball league in Africa.[1] Founded in 2019, the organization was established by both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and International Basketball Federation (FIBA).[2]

Each season typically runs from March to May, and in the current format the league consists of twelve teams. Each of the teams qualify through their performance in their domestic competition, a meritocratic system similar to the format of the UEFA Champions League.[3] Six teams qualify directly, while six others have to play in the Road to BAL. The season exists out of three conferences and uses playoffs to determine the champions. The BAL champions of each season automatically qualify for the FIBA Intercontinental Cup.

The first season was held in 2021 and thus far, three champions have won the competion.

History[edit]

President of Rwanda Paul Kagame at a ceremony for the unveiling of the BAL logo at Kigali Arena, Kigali, Rwanda, 19 December 2019

On 16 February 2019 the National Basketball Association and FIBA announced plans to establish a continental professional basketball league.[4] During a press conference at the 2019 NBA All-Star weekend, NBA commissioner Adam Silver elaborated on plans to establish the league. He stated that the league will feature 12 teams after qualification tournaments in late 2019. The countries that could possibly host a team include; Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.[5][6] Silver also hinted at the involvement of former U.S. president Barack Obama in an unspecified role.[2] In May 2019, Amadou Gallo Fall was assigned by the NBA as the first president of the BAL.[7] In September 2019, BAL announced the venues and cities for the inaugural season, which included a Final Four played in Kigali Arena in Kigali, Rwanda.[8]

On 15 October 2019, the qualifying tournaments for the inaugural season began, with teams from 32 African countries participating.[9] The start of the BAL was eventually postponed twice due to the disruptive COVID-19 pandemic.[10] The first BAL game was played on 16 May 2021, in the Kigali Arena in Kigali, Rwanda, which hosted the entire tournament. The season was held in a bio-secure bubble with only limited attendance allowed. On 30 May, Zamalek from Egypt won the first-ever BAL championship after beating US Monastir in the inaugural final.[11]

The following season, the league expanded it format with five-team conferences (the Sahara and Nile Conference), which were held in Dakar and Cairo. The playoffs were held in Kigali.

Format[edit]

Each BAL season consists of twelve teams. In the regular season, the twelve teams are divided into two conferences (Sahara Conference and Nile Conference), in which they play five games each. The four highest-placed teams of each conference advance to the playoffs, which is a single-elimination tournament which decides the BAL champion.

Qualification[edit]

Like Europe's Basketball Champions League and association football's CAF Champions League, the BAL has qualifying rounds to determine which teams play in each season. National federations from African countries are given the opportunity to send one representing club, usually the champions of the respective national league. In the Road to BAL, teams play each other in groups for six remaining spots in the BAL regular season. In the first round, all participating teams are divided over groups, with the top teams advancing to the Elite 16. There, another group stage follows before single-game eliminations are played in the semi-finals and finals.

Six teams from six predetermined countries qualify directly for the regular season, without playing qualifiers, to make for a total of twelve teams. These countries have been determined based on basketball history and commercial market size, and have thus far been Angola, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco (in 2021), Nigeria, Rwanda (since 2022) and Senegal.

Players in Brooklyn, New York during the first-ever BAL Combine in 2020

Foreign players restrictions[edit]

Each club participating in the BAL regular season is restricted to having four foreign players only, which means it has to have at least 8 local players on its roster. Furthermore, two out of four foreign players must be from another African country. A maximum of 2 out of the 4 foreign players can be from outside of Africa. [12]

BAL Elevate program[edit]

Ahead of the 2022 season, the BAL launched the BAL Elevate program in cooperation with the NBA Academy Africa. The program places a player from the academy in one of the team's rosters. Players from the same country as a BAL team are automatically assigned to a team, while remaining players are selected from a pool. Elevate players do not share in the prize money that is awarded from the competition, to preserve their amateur status.[13]

Teams[edit]

Location of teams of the 2024 BAL season main tournament.
Red: Undetermined conference; Green: Savannah Conference; Brown: Nile Conference; Yellow: Kalahari Conference.

Over four BAL seasons, 24 teams from 19 countries have played in the BAL.

Current teams[edit]

The following are the twelve teams of the 2024 BAL season.

Conference Team City, Country National league National titles Founded Joined
Nile Conference Libya Al Ahly Benghazi Benghazi, Libya Libyan Division I Basketball League 3 1950 2024
Central African Republic Bangui Sporting Club Bangui, Central African Republic Bangui Basketball League 2 2017 2024
Uganda City Oilers Kampala, Uganda NBL Uganda 9 2011 2023
Egypt Al Ahly Cairo, Egypt Egyptian Basketball Super League 8 1930 2023
Sahara Conference Rwanda APR Kigali, Rwanda Rwanda Basketball League 14 1993 2024
Tunisia US Monastir Monastir, Tunisia Championnat National A 9 1923 2021
Senegal AS Douanes Dakar, Senegal Nationale 1 11 1980 2021
Nigeria Rivers Hoopers Port Harcourt, Nigeria Nigerian Premier League 5 2005 2021
Kalahari Conference South Africa Cape Town Tigers Cape Town, South Africa South African National Championship 3 2019 2022
Angola Petro de Luanda Luanda, Angola Angolan Basketball League 16 1980 2021
Burundi Dynamo Bujumbura, Burundi Viva Basketball League 3 1968 2024
Morocco FUS Rabat Rabat, Morocco Division Excellence 18 1946 2024

Results[edit]

List of finals[edit]

Edition Year Hosts Champions Score and Venue Runners-up Third place Score and Venue Fourth place No. of teams
1 2021 Rwanda
Kigali
Egypt
Zamalek
76–63
Kigali Arena, Kigali
Tunisia
US Monastir
Angola
Petro de Luanda
97–68
Kigali Arena, Kigali
Rwanda
Patriots
12
2 2022 Rwanda
Kigali
Tunisia
US Monastir
83–72
BK Arena, Kigali
Angola
Petro de Luanda
Egypt
Zamalek
97–74
BK Arena, Kigali
Cameroon
FAP
3 2023 Rwanda
Kigali
Egypt
Al Ahly
80–65
BK Arena, Kigali
Senegal
AS Douanes
Mali
Stade Malien
73-65
BK Arena, Kigali
Angola
Petro de Luanda

Performance by club[edit]

Performances in the BAL by club
Club Titles Runners-up Years won Years runners-up
Tunisia US Monastir 1 1 2022 2021
Egypt Al Ahly 1 0 2023
Egypt Zamalek 1 0 2021
Angola Petro de Luanda 0 1 2022
Senegal AS Douanes 0 1 2023

Performance by country[edit]

Performances in the BAL by nation
Club Titles Runners-up Years won Years runners-up
 Egypt 2 0 2021, 2023
 Tunisia 1 1 2022 2021
 Angola 0 1 2022
 Senegal 0 1 2023

Records and statistics[edit]

Solo Diabate and Michael Fakuade have won two BAL championships, and are the only players to have won multiple titles.[14] Chris Crawford is the all-time scoring leader of the league, having scored 341 points in three seasons.

All-time participants[edit]

Map of countries, teams from which have played in the main tournament and qualifying rounds of the Basketball Africa League.
  Not represented
  FIBA member country that has been represented in the regular season
  FIBA member country that has been represented in the qualifying rounds

The following is a list of clubs who have played in the Basketball Africa League at any time since its formation in 2020 to the current season. A total of 19 teams from 16 countries have played in the BAL thus far.

1st Champions
2nd Runners-up
3rd Third place
4th Fourth place
QF Quarterfinalists
GS Group phase
TBD To be determined
Team 21 22 23 Total
seasons
Highest
finish
AlgeriaMC Alger GS 1 Group phase
Angola Petro de Luanda 3rd 2nd 4th 3 Runners-up
Ivory Coast ABC Fighters QF 1 Quarterfinalist
Cameroon FAP QF 4th 2 Fourth place
Democratic Republic of the Congo Espoir Fukash GS 1 Group phase
Egypt Al Ahly 1st 1 Champions
Egypt Zamalek 1st 3rd 2 Champions
Guinea SLAC QF GS 1 Quarterfinalist
Madagascar GNBC GS 1 Group phase
Mali AS Police GS 1 Group phase
Mali Stade Malien 3rd 1 Third Place
Morocco AS Salé QF QF 2 Quarter-finalist
Mozambique Ferroviário da Beira GS QF 2 Group phase
Mozambique Ferroviário de Maputo QF 1 Quarter-finalist
Nigeria Kwara Falcons GS 1 Group phase
Nigeria Rivers Hoopers GS 1 Group phase
South Africa Cape Town Tigers QF QF 2 Quarterfinalist
Rwanda Patriots 4th 1 Fourth place
Rwanda REG QF QF 2 Quarterfinalist
Senegal AS Douanes QF 2nd 2 Runners-up
Senegal DUC GS 1 Group stage
Uganda City Oilers GS 1 Group phase
South Sudan Cobra Sport GS 1 Group phase
Tunisia US Monastir 2nd 1st GS 3 Champions

Sponsorship and partnerships[edit]

Since its inception, the BAL has been sponsored by multiple multinational organisations, including:

Trophy and prize money[edit]

The champions of the BAL finals receive the competitions' trophy, which is inspired by the adansonia (more commonly known as baobab), a common type of tree in Africa.[18]

In the inaugural season in 2021, the champions reportedly received $100,000 in prize money; runners-up received $75,000; third place $55,000 and fourth place $25,000.[19]

Organisation, ownership and investments[edit]

Amadou Gallo Fall is the first President of the BAL, since assuming the position in 2021

The BAL is owned and operated by NBA Africa, a sub-entity of the NBA which was established in May 2021.[20] Since then, the league has been driven by private investments. At the moment of establishment, strategic investors including a consortium of Babatunde “Tunde” Folawiyo, Helios Fairfax Partners Corporation (HFP). Other investors included former players such as Dikembe Mutombo, Junior Bridgeman, Luol Deng, Grant Hill, Joakim Noah and Ian Mahinmi.[21] Two months later, it was announced that former President of the United States Barack Obama joined NBA Africa as a strategic partner while also purchasing a minority stake in the organisation.[22] NBA commissioner Adam Silver stated that NBA Africa was valued at $1 billion.[23]

The organisation of the league currently exists out of:

  • Amadou Gallo Fall (Commissioner)[24]
  • John Manyo-Plange (Vice-President)[25]
  • Victor Williams (CEO NBA Africa)

Criticism[edit]

The Human Rights Foundation has criticized the BAL for maintaining close relations with Paul Kagame and his Rwandan authoritarian government, and has sent an official letter to the NBA regarding the matter.[26] Other newspapers such as The Guardian and Bloomberg News have also described the league as being a tool for sportswashing for the Rwandan government's repression and the regime's involvement in the Rwandan Civil War.[26][27][28]

Media coverage[edit]

Advertisement for the 2023 BAL season in front of the Dakar Arena

The BAL games are broadcastin as many as 215 countries in 14 languages.[29] All BAL games are broadcast by:[30]

Location Broadcaster
African Union Africa ESPN Africa
Visionview.tv (online)
Canal+ Afrique
Voice of Africa Radio
 Canada NBATV Canada
TSN
China China Tencent Sports
Middle East OnTime Sports
 Egypt Zamalek TV (Zamalek games only)[31]
 Morocco Arryadia (AS Salé games only)
 Tunisia El Watania 2 (US Monastir games only)
 United States ESPN+
NBA TV
Voice of America
International beIN Sports
theBAL.com (online)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "NBA starting 12-team Africa league next year". ESPN.com. 16 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b Zillgitt, Jeff (17 December 2019). "NBA, FIBA launching 12-team league in Africa; Barack Obama to have hands-on role". USA Today. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  3. ^ Conway, Tyler (16 February 2019). "NBA Announces Basketball Africa League to Start in 2020; Barack Obama Involved". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  4. ^ Reynolds, Tim. "NBA, FIBA announce plans for pro league in Africa". NBA.com. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  5. ^ "NBA, FIBA and President Obama partner to form Basketball Africa League". sports.yahoo.com. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  6. ^ "NBA, FIBA bringing pro league to Africa". sports.yahoo.com. Archived from the original on 12 May 2021. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  7. ^ "NBA notes: Amadou Gallo Fall is named president of Basketball Africa League". Los Angeles Times. 28 May 2019. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  8. ^ "NBA's Basketball Africa League Gets One Step Closer To Reality With Announcement Of Host Cities". Forbes. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  9. ^ "African clubs to compete in qualifying tournaments for the BAL confirmed". FIBA Africa. 9 October 2019. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  10. ^ "Basketball Africa League postpones start of inaugural season". NBA.com. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  11. ^ "ZAMALEK ARE THE CHAMPIONS OF THE INAUGURAL BASKETBALL AFRICA LEAGUE". www.thebal.com. Archived from the original on 30 May 2021. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  12. ^ "BAL: Why the Basketball Africa League coming into sharper focus is important for sport". GiveMeSport. 30 October 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
  13. ^ "BAL teams to field one NBA Academy player each in 2022". ESPN.com. 2 March 2022. Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  14. ^ Sarl, Nas (30 May 2022). "Souleyman Diabaté remporte pour la seconde fois de suite la Basketball Africa League (BAL)". Mondialsport.ci (in French). Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  15. ^ "BAL announces new energy sponsor". The African Mirror. 30 April 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  16. ^ "VISIT RWANDA AND RWANDAIR JOIN BAL AS OFFICIAL PARTNERS". www.thebal.com. Archived from the original on 16 May 2021. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
  17. ^ "Basketball Africa League And Rwanda Announce Five Year Extension". www.africa.com. 10 July 2023. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  18. ^ "BAL unveils giant baobab-inspired trophy as tourney enters semis". The East African. 29 May 2021. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  19. ^ Mintah, Yaw (5 October 2020). "Basketball Africa League Winner to pocket $150,000". Basket Ball Ghana. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  20. ^ "NBA forms new Africa entity and partners with strategic investors". NBA.com: NBA Communications. 24 May 2021. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  21. ^ "Deng named ambassador for Basketball Africa". ESPN.com. 12 February 2020. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  22. ^ "Former President Barack Obama joins NBA Africa as strategic partner". www.nba.com. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  23. ^ Feldman, Jacob (24 May 2021). "NBA Africa Adds Investors to Hit Billion-Dollar Valuation for Development". Sportico.com. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  24. ^ "NBA names Amadou Gallo Fall President of Basketball Africa League". NBA.com: NBA Communications. 28 May 2019. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  25. ^ "Basketball Africa League names John Manyo-Plange Vice President & Head of Strategy and Operations". NBA.com: NBA Communications. 16 August 2019. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  26. ^ a b Saucedo, Natalia (25 May 2021). "HRF to NBA: Don't Play Ball With Rwanda's Warmonger". Human Rights Foundation. Retrieved 14 January 2024.
  27. ^ "The NBA's alignment with Rwanda's repressive leader was headscratching". the Guardian. 1 June 2021. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  28. ^ Prinsloo, Loni; Hoije, Katarina; Girma, Lily (12 January 2024). "NBA's Africa League Struggles to Find Fans, Faces Mounting Losses". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 14 January 2024.
  29. ^ "Basketball Africa League announces roster of broadcast partners for expanded 2022 season tipping off tomorrow". NBA.com: NBA Communications. 4 March 2022. Retrieved 19 September 2022.
  30. ^ "Basketball Africa League unveils international broadcast partners". sportbusiness.com. 12 May 2021. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  31. ^ "قناة الزمالك تعلن اذاعة مباريات بطولة افريقيا BAL تحت رعاية NBA | اوان مصر" (in Arabic). 7 April 2022. Retrieved 9 April 2022.

External links[edit]