The inaugural season of the NBA-sponsored and VOA-affiliated Basketball Africa League is underway in Kigali, Rwanda. For VOA’s Sonny Side of Sports, Mike Mbonye spoke to Nigerian-American Ike Diogu, a former NBA forward and captain of Nigeria’s national men’s basketball team, who said that interest in the tournament will grow the sport across the continent.
The interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
VOA: What’s your thoughts on the inaugural Basketball Africa League?
Diogu: Well I’m very excited about the BAL. It’s good to see all the talent that Africa has playing. And it’s good to see that is backed by the NBA. So, I’m very excited. And I’m looking forward to a very good showing.
VOA: What benefits await players, coaches, referees, and Africa from the Basketball Africa League?
Diogu: I think the benefits of players and coaches is…just more development. I think that’s the one thing that’s plagued Africa, specifically with basketball, is just development and preparation. So now you’re getting to play and coach in these games and referees…getting more experience and that’s what it all comes down to…which will further develop the continent as a whole and just starting the game of basketball.
I think that when you have a league that is powerful, that’s backed by the NBA like the BAL is, it can do nothing but continue to grow the game of basketball.
You know, for the longest time. I think soccer stood up top and soccer is still at the top. But I think basketball is gradually, gradually getting closer and closer to being neck and neck with soccer because there’s a lot of good African-born and African basketball players that live in the United States and are very talented and are very good players.
And you have the popularity starting to grow. And I just think that something like this league can only do nothing but continue to bolster the trajectory that Africa basketball is on.
Source: Voice of America