Culture

President Barack Obama is Helping the NBA Launch a Basketball Africa League

President Barack Obama is Helping the NBA Launch a Basketball Africa League

 Photo: Getty Images 

President Barack Obama loves basketball so much that soon after taking office in 2009, he had removable baskets added and basketball court lines painted on the tennis court so he could play full-court basketball and pickup games with his staff.

Obama is now taking his love for the game to the next level by helping the National Basketball League and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) launch a professional league in Africa. 

The NBA announced the news on Saturday during All-Star Weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina with the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver saying in a statement, "The Basketball Africa League is an important next step in our continued development of the game of basketball in Africa. Combined with our other programs on the continent, we are committed to using basketball as an economic engine to create new opportunities in sports, media and technology across Africa."

Along with the announcement, the NBA shared a video that features Obama addressing young athletes and the great achievements of African basketball players. Obama also tweeted out his support of Basketball Africa League, which will include 12 teams from the continent. 

"I've always loved basketball because it's about building a team that's equal to more than the sum of its parts," Obama said in a tweet. "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. 

In addition to offering players words of encouragement, Obama is set to have a direct role in the development of the new professional basketball league. 

"Mark Tatum and I had the pleasure of spending several hours over the past few months with President Obama, and we all know how much work he has been doing in Africa and what a fan of the sport of basketball he is," Silver said. "He has said ‘I want to be directly involved with these activities in Africa.' He understands the economic opportunities in Africa. He’s personally a huge fan of the game, and in fact dedicated a court there recently with Masai. So while we’re still talking to him in terms of exactly what his role is going to be, we know he’s going to be directly involved in our activities there as well."

The 12 teams will be determined at a qualifying event in Africa with no more than two teams representing one country. The Basketball Africa League Games are set to start January 2020. 

According to ESPN, this will be mark the "first time the NBA will be part of the operation of a league outside of North America."