Nigeria is not represented at the 2022 edition of the Basketball Africa League, and BAL president Amadou Gallo Fall is cognizant of the country’s importance to the business of basketball on the continent.
Nigerian team Rivers Hoopers played in the inaugural edition of the BAL in 2021, and again qualified for this year’s showcase, before being disqualified by FIBA due to breaching government interference rules.
Ahead of the opening game of the Nile Conference in Cairo, Fall recognized Nigeria’s importance to the competition, both in terms of audience and revenue, and conceded that their return for 2023 was crucial.
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Fall, speaking of the BAL’s ideal outcome, told ESPN: « No question, we are going to have a team from Nigeria next year. We have already started the work.
« We realize it’s our biggest market. [They are] the biggest, most populous nation on the continent and probably one of the top economies, so we realize we need to be there.
« We are working diligently to make sure that for next season, we have a Nigerian team in our league. »
NBA Africa recently opened an office in Lagos, Nigeria, thus highlighting the importance of the sporting giant to the company, and to the game on the continent as a whole.
That office is led by Gbemisola Abudu, who was cautious in her expectations for a Nigerian return to the BAL, saying that it was up to the Nigerian Basketball Federation [NBBF] to get their house in order first.
She emphasized that the NBBF and clubs had to be in line with governing body rules, but that with the BAL as the carrot, teams and the local leagues were motivated to be a legitimate part of the bigger picture.
Abudu, who is also NBA Africa’s vice-president, told ESPN exclusively: « The NBA understands what Nigeria represents, and it’s making sure that we serve as a unifying body for all stakeholders in the basketball ecosystem.
« The BAL is an amazing league and it represents a huge opportunity for Africans. You hear a lot of African players who have played internationally saying that they want to play at home.
« Most stakeholders in the Nigerian basketball ecosystem understand the importance of the league. Everybody who has a vested interest in the success of basketball in Nigeria knows the importance of this [and that the NBBF presidency impasse] has to be resolved.
« I know that everyone is taking it seriously and trying to figure out what the best way forward is. »
The Rivers Hoopers were replaced by Morocco’s AS Sale in the BAL lineup, and they went on to finish third in the Sahara Conference in March. They thus qualified for the playoffs in Kigali in May, where four of the teams from the ongoing Nile Conference in Cairo will join them.