Barack Obama will be “directly involved” with new Basketball Africa League

Former president works with NBA to bring hoops to the motherland

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Former President Barack Obama will reportedly play a hands-on role in a new NBA-backed basketball league in Africa, USA Today reports.

The NBA and FIBA have announced plans to launch the Basketball Africa League in January 2020, featuring 12 teams from the continent. It will be the first pro sports league outside of the U.S., and a qualifying event will determine the teams. No more than two teams from one country can qualify.

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“The Basketball Africa League is an important next step in our continued development of the game of basketball in Africa,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver in a statement. “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.”

As an avid basketball fan, Obama’s role has yet to be determined, but on Twitter he wrote:

“I’ve always loved basketball because it’s about building a team that’s equal to more than the sum of its parts. 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.”

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Silver noted that Mr. Obama wants an active role in the Basketball Africa 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.”

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Jordan Brand and Pepsi are said to be interested in partnering with the emerging league, Silver said.