The former head of state, who is a fan of the sport, has expressed enthusiasm in helping the NBA and International Basketball Federation (FIBA) launch a new league in Africa to grow the game across the continent.
“I’ve always loved basketball because it’s about building a team that’s equal to more than the sum of its parts. 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.” Mr Obama tweeted.
The former president also retweeted a video from the NBA in which he appeared in clips taken from a trip he made to his father’s native land, Kenya, in 2018, where he took part in a basketball-oriented event benefiting a foundation formed by his half-sister, Auma Obama, that uses sports and education to help young people in rural Kenya gain greater opportunities.
“I hope you know, through sport, that if you put in the effort, you will be rewarded,” Obama said at the event, as shown in the NBA’s video.
“I hope you learn through sport what it means to play as a team and that even if you are the best player, your job is not just to show off, but your job is to make your teammates better.”
Despite having talented athletes, Basketball is still growing in Africa save for a handful of countries who have notable national teams.
According to the new NBA league for Africa game plan, 12 teams from across the continent will be selected to square it out on the pitch with games scheduled to begin in January 2020.
However, it is yet to be determined which existing club teams will be part of the league. Qualification tournaments will be held later this year to decide those clubs, with teams from Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia expected to be among those taking part.
No nation will be allowed to have more than two teams in the league.
This is the NBA's first collaboration to operate a league outside of North America.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said there was strong support for the Basketball Africa League
“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 … and in addition, several of the partners of the NBA have expressed a strong desire to work with us in Africa.” Said Silver.
Mr. Silver added that he was excited that Mr Obama wanted to have a role in the initiative, and said talks between the NBA and the former president are ongoing.
“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... and in addition, several of the partners of the NBA have expressed a strong desire to work with us in Africa,” Mr Silver said.
Pepsi and Nike’s Jordan Brand – Michael Jordan are among the first partners who want to be part of the league.
FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis said in a statement the partnership is a "natural extension of what we have done through the joint initiative that is Basketball Without Borders (BWB), which helps find, develop and nurture young talented players all around the world, including in Africa. The Basketball Africa League will enable us to build on the solid foundation laid by FIBA Africa and relaunch the continent's club competition to offer the ultimate platform for the very best clubs and players."