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NBA announces formation of NBA Africa as the sport expands on the continent

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The NBA on Monday announced the creation of NBA Africa, where it will hold standalone business operations and has lured many NBA figures as investors in the venture.

The NBA has business relationships in other continents, so extending it to Africa — where its relationship began in 1993 with a trip to the continent spearheaded by late commissioner David Stern — seems like a logical move.

Some of its notable NBA investors include Grant Hill, Dikembe Mutombo, Junior Bridgeman, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, in an early morning news conference, estimated the enterprise value for NBA Africa is worth nearly $1 billion.

Africa is a growing market globally, and the NBA’s relationship has grown in recent years, illustrated by the new 12-team Basketball Africa League. Victor Williams, NBA Africa CEO, believes basketball will become a main footprint in Africa within the next 10 years.

“In order to reach that milestone, we've developed a comprehensive growth plan that will greatly accelerate the development of Africa's basketball ecosystem, deepen our fan engagement efforts, advanced social responsibility, and drive economic growth,” Williams said.

“The future of Africa is bright. And we will continue to use the game to shine a spotlight on Africa's capacity to be a global leader.”

Photo taken on May 16, 2021 shows a view of the opening game of the the inaugural Basketball Africa League BAL between Patriots of Rwanda and Rivers Hoopers of Nigeria in Kigali, capital city of Rwanda, May 16, 2021. The professional league, taking place at Kigali Arena from May 16-30 under strict COVID-19 guidelines, is a partnership between the International Basketball Federation FIBA and the National Basketball Association NBA that features 12 club teams from across Africa. It also marks the NBA's first collaboration to operate a league outside North America. (Photo by Cyril Ndegeya/Xinhua via Getty Images)
NBA commissioner Adam Silver, in an early morning news conference, estimated the enterprise value for NBA Africa is worth nearly $1 billion. (Cyril Ndegeya/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Silver and Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum will serve, among others, on the NBA Africa board of directors.

African investors include Nigerian Babatunde "Tunde" Folawiyo, Chairman and CEO of Yinka Folawiyo Group and Helios Fairfax Partners Corporation, led by Nigerian Tope Lawani, co-CEO of HFP and co-founder and managing partner of Helios Investment Partners.

The group’s wide range of experiences in the business world should help NBA Africa’s growth as it aims to establish content, gain media rights and build corporate sponsorships — very similar to the NBA’s relationship with China.

Lawani recalls watching the 1994 NBA Finals on his small television when Nigerian-born Hakeem Olajuwon led the Houston Rockets to the first of two straight championships.

“I was proud to be Nigerian, proud to be African,” Lawani said.

Silver pointed out the 55 NBA players who are from Africa or have one or both parents who are African. One player who was on that trip with commissioner Stern in 1993 was Mutombo, a native of Congo.

Mutombo has been very invested in hospitals in Congo, and met former South African president Nelson Mandela on that trip.

“Africa is one of the youngest population in the world. And Africa youth have just need the opportunity and the support to achieve great things,” Mutombo said. “The new NBA Africa is that transformative next step, to do just that: giving more African youth the same opportunity that I had many years ago.”

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