Obama to play a role in new NBA-backed basketball league in Africa

By Emily Tillett

/ CBS News

Former President Barack Obama is lending his support to one of his favorite pastimes by 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 on Saturday.

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. https://t.co/lghcLaUN9a

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 16, 2019

The NBA and FIBA announced Saturday the launch of a new Basketball Africa League (BAL). NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Mr. Obama expressed an interest in getting involved and will have a direct role with the league, according to The Associated Press. The details of his involvement are still to be determined.

In a video from the NBA featuring the accomplishments of African basketball players and the NBA's efforts in the region, Mr. Obama is seen delivering remarks to young athletes.

"I hope you know through sport that if you put in effort you will be rewarded, 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," said Mr. Obama, who's seen sinking a 3-pointer with ease.

The league will feature 12 teams from across the continent with games scheduled to begin in January 2020. This is the NBA's first collaboration to operate a league outside of North America. 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."

"The Basketball Africa League is an important next step in our continued development of the game of basketball in Africa," echoed Silver. "Combined with our other programs on the continent, we are committed to using basketball as an economic engine to create new opportunities in sports, media and technology across Africa."

WASHINGTON – OCTOBER 8: In this handout photo provided by the White House, President Barack Obama plays basketball with cabinet secretaries and members of Congress on the White House court, October 8, 2009 in Washington, D.C. Handout / Getty Images

Mr. Obama, a noted fan of the sport, had a basketball court installed on the White House grounds during his time in office and was regularly seen playing pickup games with members of his Cabinet.

First published on February 17, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Tillett

Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital

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