The inaugural season of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) tips off on Sunday, May 16, 2021, when the Nigeria Rivers Hoopers take on the Rwanda Patriots.
Ahead of the season, the Patriots made headlines when it was reported that Grammy Award-winning artist J. Cole would be signing on to play during the inaugural season. While Cole's signing has yet to become official, there is much more to know about the upcoming season of the BAL, which begins with an 18-game group phase.
Here's some of the most important information…
What is the BAL?
The Basketball Africa League is a professional league featuring 12 club teams from across Africa.
The league was established by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the NBA in February of 2019. According to its website, "the BAL builds on the foundation of club competitions FIBA has organized in Africa and marks the NBA's first collaboration to operate a league outside North America."
The site continues…
"The BAL is part of the NBA and FIBA's broader efforts to use sports as an economic growth engine across Africa and as a platform to improve the health and wellness of one of the world's youngest and fastest-growing populations. Having a professional basketball league supported by the NBA and FIBA in Africa provides a platform for elite players from across the continent to showcase their talent and inspire more young boys and girls to play the game."
Who's playing in the BAL?
Similar to the format of the UEFA Champions League, six of the 12 teams that qualified did so by winning the respective national title. The remaining six teams secured a spot in the league through BAL qualifying tournaments conducted by FIBA in late 2019.
The 12 qualifying teams are as follows:
- Algeria - GS Pétroliers
- Angola - Petro de Luanda
- Cameroon - FAP
- Egypt- Zamalek
- Madagascar - GNBC
- Mali - AS Police
- Morocco - AS Salé
- Mozambique - Ferroviaro de Maputo
- Nigeria - Rivers Hoopers
- Rwanda - Patriots
- Senegal - As Douanes
- Tunisia - US Monastir
Canadian Myck Kabongo, who lettered at the University of Texas, will be playing with Ferroviaro De Maputo in the upcoming BAL season. Former NBA player Ben Uzoh, who appeared in 60 games with the New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, will play for the Rivers Hoopers.
What is the BAL's season format?
The 12 teams have been split into three groups of four that will first take part in group play from May 16-23. Each team will play three games, facing each team within their group once.
The top two teams from each group will earn automatic qualification to the eight-team playoffs, with the final two spots going to the third-place teams that are ranked highest.
The three groups are as follows:
- Group A: US Monastir, Rivers Hoopers, Patriots, GNBC
- Group B: Petro de Luanda, AS Salé, AS Police, FAP
- Group C: Zamalek, AS Douanes, Ferroviário de Maputo, GS Pétroliers
The playoffs, which are single-elimination, begin on May 26, with the Final being played on May 30.
All games will be played at Kigali Arena in Kigali, Rwanda, rendering the Patriots as the host team.
How can you watch the BAL?
In Canada, select BAL games and programming will be available on TSN. In the United States, all games will be available on ESPN+, while the season opener and Finals will also air on ESPNews.
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