NBA will make basketball as popular as football in Africa, says Fall
Fortunately, he says, recent events in Nigeria, particularly the launching of the Lagos Islanders’ franchise in Victoria Island and plans by other clubs, including Dodan Warriors’ acquisition of a 35-acre plot of land for its own structure, point to a growing pattern in the rise of the game. But much still have to be done in the administration of the game.
Speaking during a session with the media in Lagos yesterday, the Johannesburg, South Africa-based Fall says the NBA is always looking at ways to develop basketball all over the world, adding that Africa holds a key part of the plan because of the enormous talent available in the continent.
He added: “Nigeria is a top priority market in our bid to grow basketball in the world. This is the continent that produced the great Hakeem Olajuwon, who is one of the top 50 Hall of Famers. That is why we aim at building authentic partnerships with governments, organisations and the private sector to create a platform for African youths to utilize their unique gifts to play basketball.”
Fall says the NBA uses top stars like the great Hakeem Olajuwon, Obinna Ekezie, Luol Deng, Dikembe Mutombo, among others, to teach children the rudiments of the game after school hours.
“We want to ensure that the next generation of African NBA players are better prepared than we were when we got to the NBA. I stumbled on basketball when I was already 16 years old. In contrast, Nigeria’s Festus Ezeli of NBA champions, Golden State Warriors, started playing the game in Benin at the age of 14.
That is why we are concentrating on the grassroots.
“We have a partnership with ExxonMobil and I can assure you that with the enthusiasm shown by Nigerian youths, basketball will soon be as popular as football. But the idea is not to supplant football. We believe there is enough room for as many sports as possible to strive.”
Fall, who affirmed that the NBA’s dream is to make basketball a staple, a fixture in every sports lover’s calendar, acknowledges the challenges posed by poor management and organsiation.
“We have some great stars in the NBA who want to come to develop the game back home. But we must provide the enabling environment to encourage them to invest their time and resources.
“We are bringing an NBA to Africa for the first time, where the world stars will play against African stars a the Ellis Park Arena, Johannesburg, South Africa. Above that, we want to see African leagues attracting as much attention as the NBA.”
Fall said in the All Stars Game, Team Africa will comprise players from Africa and second generation African players, while Team World will feature players from the rest of the world.
“Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers will captain Team World, while Luol Deng is designated captain of Team Africa.”
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