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NBA making inroads in Africa

May 28, 2010, 7:01 PM EDT

Despite fact that players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Manute Bol, Luol Deng, and Serge Ibaka have all come to the NBA by way of Africa, the sport hasn’t really caught on over there. According to a recent New York Times article, Amadou Gallo Fall, vice president of NBA development in Africa, is doing his best to get young kids playing basketball while Africa is in the throes of World Cup fever. 

Fall and the NBA both wanted to open up their offices while World Cup hysteria is at its highest and the sports world has its eyes on Africa, but that doesn’t mean the task in front of them any easier:
Fall may have the toughest sports job in Africa. He certainly faces one of the most daunting challenges: planting the N.B.A. flag here and using the league’s enormous global brand to develop basketball on a continent where the game of choice is soccer.
“There’s no question that we’ve got some work to do to get the game where it is really accessible,” he said. “That’s our main mission, not just in South Africa but throughout the continent. The good news is that we’ve been coming here for quite some time. We’re not starting from scratch. We have something to build on. It isn’t completely uncharted waters.”

According to the article, the challenge is not creating interest in basketball, but providing the resources — indoor courts, coaches, clinics — necessary to cultivate that interest. 

The NBA has made efforts to develop the game in Africa before, developing the Premier Basketball League in 1993 (it disbanded in 1996), and making regular visits to Africa as part of the Basketball Without Borders program in recent years. The hope is that a more permanent presence will allow the interest in basketball that exists in Africa to turn into more kids getting scholarships, playing in leagues, and eventually making it to the pros. 
Professional basketball has obviously been tremendously successful in Europe, and the passion for the NBA game in China is incredible. If the game can catch on in Africa, it will be one more example of the amazing work David Stern has done to make the game global. 
  1. A. - May 29, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    As an NBA fan living in Italy I’m very excited about the league getting more and more popular outside the U.S. I like to see my favorite sport developing. And you said the NBA has been tremendously successful in Europe. That’s correct. Just think that next fall the Knicks will play a preseason game here in Italy, in Milan. Tickets were gone in a few hours and there were about 75,000 (you read it correctly) tickets requests for a preaseason game that will be played 5 months from now. Enough said. And I heard tickets for a preseason game in London are soldout, too, despite the fact England is one of the few places in Europe where basketball is still not that big.

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