Silver unveils NBA Africa, backed by former stars

NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the formation of a new business investment entity called NBA Africa on Monday that includes investments from former star players.

NBA Africa will conduct the league’s business endeavors in Africa, including the new Basketball Africa League (BAL). Investors will come from African businesses, governments and non-governmental organizations as well as former NBA greats Dikembe Mutombo and Grant Hill.

The NBA hopes that the funding will contribute to the growth of the BAL, help expand the league’s presence in priority African markets and Africa’s basketball ecosystem, and improve the league’s engagement with players and fans through initiatives such as the launch of additional NBA academies and social responsibility initiatives.

“With the expertise, resources and shared vision, the immensely successful investors and NBA legends, we believe that basketball in Africa can become a top sport over the next decade,” Silver said during a virtual press conference.

Silver said NBA Africa’s enterprise value, a measure of a company’s total value, is already nearly $1 billion, and he hopes it can become a “top brand” in Africa. Another hope for NBA Africa is to join the BAL’s efforts to improve the livelihoods of African youth and families, including gender equality and economic inclusion efforts.

The NBA currently has 55 players that either are from Africa or have family ties there, Silver said. The NBA opened its first office in Africa in Johannesburg, South Africa, and debuted the 12-team BAL earlier this month.

Along with Mutombo and Hill, former NBA standouts Junior Bridgeman, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah are also investors. African investors include Nigerian Babatunde “Tunde” Folawiyo, Chairman and CEO of Yinka Folawiyo Group and Helios Fairfax Partners Corporation, led by Nigerian Tope Lawani, co-CEO of HFP and co-founder and managing partner of Helios Investment Partners.

Lawani and Folawiyo will also join the NBA Africa Board of Directors, which is led by NBA Africa CEO Victor Williams and includes Silver and NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Mark Tatum.

“There is nothing more important to me than helping young people grow into leaders,” Mutombo said during the press conference. “And the NBA has helped me and many other Africans create an incredible platform to make a difference. Africa has one of the youngest populations in the world, and Africa youth just need the opportunity and support to achieve great things. The new NBA Africa is the transformative next step to do just that.”

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