NBA Africa, a new entity the league announced Monday, will aim to grow the game of basketball—and the NBA’s presence—on the world’s second most populous continent.
NBA Africa investors include Nigerian businessman Babatunde “Tunde” Folawiyo; Africa-focused investment holding company Helios Fairfax Partners (HFP), which is based in Canada; and ex-NBA players Dikembe Mutumbo, Junior Bridgeman, Luol Deng, Grant Hill and Joakim Noah.
During an online press event, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the new entity is valued at nearly $1 billion. “Much of that valuation comes from the enormous optimism we see in this brand in Africa and our opportunity to bring content directly to the people of the many countries of Africa,” he said. Silver and NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum will sit on the new organization’s board of directors.
Both Silver and HFP co-CEO Tope Lawani cited the growing digital media environment in numerous African countries as generating more demand for content, and thus creating more opportunities for basketball programming.
NBA Africa, along with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), will manage the Basketball Africa League (BAL), which started play earlier this month. The BAL will support localized and live-in-primetime content, while NBA Africa also works to provide custom NBA storytelling for its African audiences.
The NBA currently has offices in South Africa and Senegal, but NBA Africa CEO Victor Williams said it hopes to expand across the continent. He also mentioned the goal of opening more training centers beyond Senegal’s NBA Academy Africa.
“The successful formation and funding of NBA Africa as a standalone entity is indicative of the rich history of the NBA in Africa, the power of the NBA’s vision for the growth of the game on the continent, and the strong commitment by our outstanding new partners to support that vision,” Williams said in a statement.
The BAL was first introduced in 2019, after the NBA played its first game on the continent in 2015 and opened the Senegal academy in 2017. More than 50 active NBA players were either born in Africa or are the sons of African natives.
“This time, success will be defined not just by return on investment but by sustainable and long-term impact on the lives of our people,” Folawiyo said in a press release. “That is our aim.”