Photo: Mark Wilson (Getty Images)

Considering the NBA’s global popularity and penchant for staying ahead of the curve, Saturday’s announcement that the league is officially expanding outside of North America comes as no surprise.

Here’s the scoop, courtesy of ESPN:

The NBA and FIBA jointly announced their plan Saturday afternoon to launch a basketball league featuring 12 club teams across Africa — marking the first time the NBA will be part of the operation of a league outside of North America.

The new league, which will be called the Basketball Africa League, or BAL, will be built upon existing team competitions FIBA is already organizing in Africa. It is scheduled to begin play in January 2020.

In order to determine which teams will be participating in the venture, the NBA and FIBA are jointly planning to conduct qualification tournaments later this year to identify the 12 teams that would represent several countries — including Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia. There will be no more than two teams from any single country in the league.

But the biggest surprise comes the revelation that our forever president Barack Obama, whose affinity for hoops is well-documented, will be involved in the new league—as well as the NBA’s continued efforts in Africa— in an unspecified role.

But outside of announcing the inception of the BAL, the NBA introduced two additional measures designed to expand the popularity of basketball on the continent: a revamped direct-to-consumer offering of NBA games by the start of next season and dedicated financial support and resources toward the continued development of the sport on the continent. To include training for players, coaches, referees, and building an infrastructure.

Advertisement

“The Basketball Africa League is an important next step in our continued development of the game of basketball in Africa,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Combined with our other programs on the continent, we are committed to using basketball as an economic engine to create new opportunities in sports, media and technology across Africa.”

GIF: WH.gov

It only took 7 years, but it finally looks this GIF will become a reality.