The just-concluded Basketball Africa League saw influential figures from the NBA and global basketball community coming together in Rwanda to celebrate the growth of the sport on the African continent.
Egypt’s Al Ahly team won the 2023 Basketball Africa League (BAL) Finals, beating Senegal’s AS Douanes in a commanding 80-65 victory. The high-energy playoff series was held in Rwanda’s capital Kigali from May 20 to 27 and captivated basketball fans worldwide.
Al Ahly’s triumph joins the ranks of Egyptian rivals Zamalek (2021) and Tunisia’s US Monastir (2022) in the coveted trophy club, further solidifying their hegemony in African basketball. The BAL, now in its third edition, has showcased the immense potential and growth of basketball in Africa, reaching fans in 214 countries and territories, broadcasted in 17 languages. This year’s finals marked another milestone for the league, attracting esteemed personalities from the basketball and entertainment worlds from all over the globe.
The presence of renowned personalities added a touch of glamor and buzz to the BAL Finals. Among them was President Paul Kagame and his wife, Jeannette Kagame, Forest Whitaker, the internationally acclaimed movie star and National Basketball Association (NBA) Africa investor, and FIBA President Hamane Niang. Joining them were BAL Ambassadors and NBA Africa investors Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and Ian Mahinmi to mention just a few, who were all raising the flag high for African basketball.
Another distinguished guest in attendance was Pops Mensah-Bonsu, the President of G League Operations for the New York Knicks, who proudly represents his Ghanaian heritage. Mensah-Bonsu’s presence further emphasized the international recognition and support that the BAL has garnered, with influential figures from the NBA and global basketball community coming together to celebrate the growth of the sport on the African continent.
Victor Williams, NBA Africa CEO, who was also in attendance, expressed his enthusiasm for the BAL’s impact, stating: “With the BAL, we’ve been able to go from playing in a bubble to playing in front of fans, in multiple cities. We have built audiences from all over the world, coming to watch the game, and we’ve had the privilege to be part of various caravan stops like Kigali this week.”
The league’s ability to engage global audiences and create excitement has been a driving force behind its success, highlighting the tremendous potential for basketball’s growth in Africa.
The BAL’s impact extends beyond the basketball court, generating economic growth and attracting investment in host cities. Amadou Gallo Fall, President of BAL, commended Kigali for its support and commitment to showcasing Africa in a positive light.
“Kigali is a beautiful African city where we’ve established relationships over the years,” he said. “We appreciate its focus on opening up to the rest of the world. I’m impressed by the development of the incredible infrastructure in our sports sector, which is world-class.” Gallo Fall further highlighted the significance of Kigali as the ideal location to launch the BAL, stating: “When we launched the BAL and
had to play in the middle of the pandemic in 2021, this is the only place where we found the conditions favorable to play a full inaugural season.”
The BAL’s success is not only measured by the thrilling competition on the court but also by its ability to unite fans and inspire a new generation of basketball players across Africa. As the league continues to grow and showcase the continent’s extraordinary talent, it opens doors for collaborations, investments, and cultural exchanges, fostering a positive narrative of African excellence in sports. The league is bringing the continent closer together as a united force to be reckoned with, and its impact will continue to be felt for years to come.
As the final buzzer sounded, and Al Ahly celebrated their hard-fought victory, the significance of the BAL’s impact became clear. The league has not only become a platform for African basketball talents to shine but has also become a catalyst for economic development, tourism, and international collaborations.
Looking ahead, the future of the BAL shines bright. With each passing season, the league continues to expand its reach, captivate global audiences, and inspire the next generation of African basketball stars. The success of the BAL has opened doors for partnerships, investments, and collaborations, providing a platform for African athletes to showcase their skills and aspirations on an international stage.
The triumph of Al Ahly in the 2023 BAL Finals, and the support from fans coming from all over the world, underscores the transformative power of basketball in Africa. From Cairo to Kigali, the BAL has become a symbol of African excellence, unity, and progress. With its continued growth and support from key stakeholders, the league will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping the future of African basketball and elevating the continent’s sporting prowess on the global stage.