As the inaugural season of the National Basketball Association-sponsored and VOA-affiliated Basketball Africa League reaches its halfway point, VOA’s Cheick Thiero spoke to league President Amadou Gallo Fall about the games and the future of the league. The interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
VOA: Is this what you expected from the NBA to organize a historical moment in Africa right now?
Amadou: First of all, really, the footprint in terms of these games, being distributed in 215 countries in 50 languages all across Africa and around the world, is a big first step. It’s about really creating a compelling product on the court. And in terms of a lot of these teams coming out of the gate, the talent they have and also the discipline, and the level of expertise that I see from the sidelines from different coaches from different backgrounds, it’s a good step. … [After] a good few days of games, I can only see this getting better and more difficult as we move to the playoffs next week.
It’s been a long time coming, as we wanted to set the start in March 2020. But we used that time to really stay engaged and connected with our teams. We did a lot of work in terms of referee training and building capacity. We had some of the best basketball minds in the country in the NBA coming in … general managers in the league, who came and, you know, just shared their experience, talking about how they build culture in the organization, the winning organization that they lead today.
We have very ambitious goals. We’ve got to continue to work and to put forth the effort to make sure that this league in a few years is going to be one of the absolute professional basketball leagues in the world.
VOA: Do you think we’re going to see any change in the future?
Amadou: We’re going to, you know, have a lot of learning because there will be so many firsts in this inaugural season. It’s going to be a learning experience on a lot of levels. But as far as just the talent, I think the talent can only improve. I mean, again, I am largely satisfied with most of what I’ve seen. Obviously, there’s room for improvement always.
VOA: Do we expect any surprising recruitment from the NBA from this league?
Amadou: Ultimately, we’re looking to grow a basketball industry right here and on the continent. We always know there is tremendous talent here and the talent has always been exported. And now we want to make sure that that talent also gets to be showcased on the continent. What was lacking is a platform like the Basketball Africa League. Now that it is here, I think the trickle-down effect is going to be much improved local leagues, because you have to win in your national league to qualify for the Basketball Africa League.
Source: Voice Of America