Despite fact that players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Manute Bol, Luol Deng, and Serge Ibaka have all come to the NBA by way of Africa, the sport hasn’t really caught on over there. According to a recent New York Times article, Amadou Gallo Fall, vice president of NBA development in Africa, is doing his best to get young kids playing basketball while Africa is in the throes of World Cup fever.
Fall and the NBA both wanted to open up their offices while World Cup hysteria is at its highest and the sports world has its eyes on Africa, but that doesn’t mean the task in front of them any easier:
Fall may have the toughest sports job in Africa. He certainly faces one of the most daunting challenges: planting the N.B.A. flag here and using the league’s enormous global brand to develop basketball on a continent where the game of choice is soccer.
“There’s no question that we’ve got some work to do to get the game where it is really accessible,” he said. “That’s our main mission, not just in South Africa but throughout the continent. The good news is that we’ve been coming here for quite some time. We’re not starting from scratch. We have something to build on. It isn’t completely uncharted waters.”
The NBA has made efforts to develop the game in Africa before, developing the Premier Basketball League in 1993 (it disbanded in 1996), and making regular visits to Africa as part of the Basketball Without Borders program in recent years. The hope is that a more permanent presence will allow the interest in basketball that exists in Africa to turn into more kids getting scholarships, playing in leagues, and eventually making it to the pros.
Professional basketball has obviously been tremendously successful in Europe, and the passion for the NBA game in China is incredible. If the game can catch on in Africa, it will be one more example of the amazing work David Stern has done to make the game global.