New NBA league debuts in Africa

Many of Africa’s best basketball players are now showcasing their talents in a new NBA league.

The Basketball Africa League debuted May 16 in Kigali, Rwanda, in a 12-team tournament of Africa’s top club teams that runs through May 30. Rwanda’s Patriots Basketball Club defeated Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers in the league’s first game. The new league is a collaboration of the U.S.-based National Basketball Association and the International Basketball Federation.

More than 80 current and former players from Africa have competed in the NBA. Nigerian native Hakeem Olajuwon led the Houston Rockets to NBA championships in 1994 and 1995 and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Joel Embiid, of the Philadelphia 76ers and a 2021 MVP candidate, is from Cameroon.

Man smiling while surrounded by people holding microphones (© Eric Christian Smith/AP Images)
Former NBA star Hakeem Olajuwon, a native of Nigeria, is in the Basketball Hall of Fame. (© Eric Christian Smith/AP Images)

Other African players include Michael Olowokandi of Nigeria, who was selected first overall in the 1998 NBA draft, and the late Manute Bol, who was born in Sudan. Ben Uzoh, who plays for the Rivers Hoopers, played in 60 NBA games between 2010 and 2012, competing for the New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors.

The NBA has hosted basketball camps throughout Africa since 2003 and runs a training facility in Senegal. The league also maintains an office in Johannesburg.