The National Basketball Association is preparing to kick off the inaugural season of the Basketball Africa League this May. Initially set to kick off last March in Senegal, the season will now begin in Rwanda at Kigali Arena. Partnering with the International Basketball Federation, it is the first time the NBA has worked to organize a league outside of North America.
"We are thrilled that the inaugural Basketball Africa League season will take place at the world-class Kigali Arena," BAL President Amadou Gallo Fall said.
"Through the BAL, we will provide a platform for elite players from across the continent to showcase their talent and inspire fans of all ages, use basketball as an economic growth engine across Africa, and shine a light on Africa's vibrant sporting culture."
With the COVID-19 pandemic still hovering over global society, the Basketball Africa League has implemented strict health protocols. Most notably, the league has eliminated all travel. As a result, all games will be played at Kigali Arena in Rwanda instead of hosting several games across the continent as previously scheduled. Moreover, teams and personnel will be tested regularly and expected to follow other guidelines suggested by the World Health Organization.
The Basketball Africa League will consist of the champions from national leagues in Nigeria, Angola, Morocco, Egypt, Senega and Tunisia. Six additional teams are selected through qualifying tournaments hosted by the Basketball Africa League.
The season will kick off with an 18-game group phase. Twelve teams will be divided into groups of four. Each team will face the three other teams in their group once. From there, the top eight teams from the group phase will advance to a single-elimination tournament. If the schedule holds, the Basketball Africa League Finals will take place on May 30.
"We are extremely happy to finally launch the highly anticipated first season of the BAL," FIBA Africa President Anibal Manave said.
"FIBA and the NBA have been working closely together to develop protocols to address the health and safety of all players, coaches and officials. The experience of hosting the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 Qualifiers in Rwanda late last year will contribute to a safe and successful inaugural BAL season."
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