Former President Barack Obama is known for his love of basketball.
After arriving at the White House in 2009, he quickly had the tennis court on the grounds converted into a basketball court — and he rarely missed an opportunity to use it.
“I was shocked at how good he was,” perennial NBA All-Star Chris Paul said after playing in a pick-up game with the 44th president of the United States. “Nice lefty jump shot.”
Now that Obama is out of office, basketball is no longer simply a hobby and avocation. A new professional league based in Africa is in the works, backed by the National Basketball Association — and Obama. The former president reportedly is going to play a key, though so far undefined, role in the startup. Britain’s The Independent reports he will be “directly involved” in the league.
“I’ve always loved basketball because it’s about building a team that’s equal to more than the sum of its parts,” he wrote on Twitter over the weekend. “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.”
The Basketball Africa League is expected to debut in 2020 with 12 teams from various countries around the continent. The NBA’s interest makes sense even beyond the potential expansion of its marketing brand. Africa has produced quite a few NBA players over the years — including stars such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo and Joel Embiid — and it is believed that greater development of the game throughout the continent would bring many more.
“As we’ve been talking about this concept over the last several months, there’s been a tremendous reception from many of our NBA team owners,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. He added: “several of the partners of the NBA have expressed a strong desire to work with us in Africa.”