The NBA announced Tuesday that former United States President Barack Obama is joining NBA Africa as a strategic partner. The league has been steadily growing its presence across Africa, most recently helping establish the Basketball Africa League (BAL), which kicked off its inaugural season in May.
Per the league's press release:
"President Obama will help advance the league's social responsibility efforts across the continent, including programs and partnerships that support greater gender equality and economic inclusion. In this capacity, President Obama will have a minority equity stake in the new venture, which over time he intends to use to fund Obama Foundation youth and leadership programs across Africa."
This is a significant announcement for the NBA, which just recently established NBA Africa in May to oversee the league's business in Africa. When NBA commissioner Adam Silver made the announcement of the creation of NBA Africa, he spoke about the league's interest in continuing to grow the game of basketball all the way down at the grassroots level up to the professional ranks, and this new inclusion of President Obama will certainly help attain that goal.
"The NBA has always been a great ambassador for the United States -- using the game to create deeper connections around the world, and in Africa, basketball has the power to promote opportunity, wellness, equality, and empowerment across the continent," Obama said. "By investing in communities, promoting gender equality, and cultivating the love of the game of basketball, I believe that NBA Africa can make a difference for so many of Africa's young people. I've been impressed by the league's commitment to Africa, including the leadership shown by so many African players who want to give back to their own countries and communities. That's why I'm proud to join the team at NBA Africa and look forward to a partnership that benefits the youth of so many countries."
Since the league established its headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2010, the number of NBA players who hail from different countries in Africa has steadily increased. During the 2020-21 season there were a total of 55 players who were either from a country in Africa, or had family ties over there. With players like Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam being huge success stories after attending basketball and training camps led by the NBA when they were younger, its opened the league's eyes to how global the game can really be.
The continued investment, and now the involvement of Obama, will ensure that not only is the NBA helping to grow the game of basketball in Africa, but also that its interest extends beyond the basketball court in a responsible way.