Since the announcement of the partnership between the NBA and FIBA Africa to have a collaborative basketball league in Africa, we have all looked forward to the maiden edition of the tournament which replaces the existing continental championship. Tomorrow, the journey to the Basketball Africa League (BAL) begins. 

There are three ways teams can participate in the BAL; through the qualifying tournament, getting a wild card or emerging as champions of their respective national basketball league. The entire league will be in different stages; Qualifying Tournament, Elite 16, Regular Season, Super Six and Final Four. 

Thirty-two (32) teams – grouped into six groups – from 32 different countries will participate in the Qualifying Tournaments which will play in 6 cities from Tuesday, October 15 to Sunday, November 3. The top two teams from each of the six groups will advance to the next round of the qualifying tournament – Elite 16. They will be joined by four wild card teams to make up the 16 teams. 

The groups of the Qualifying Tournaments for the Elite 16 are:

Group A (Bamako, Oct 22-27): Groupement Sportif des Pétroliers (Algeria), Alnaser (Libya), AS Police (Mali) and Seydou Legacy Athletic Club SLAC (Guinea).

Group B (host TBD, Oct 29-Nov 3): Abidjan Basketball Club (Côte d`Ivoire), ASPAC (Benin), Braves of Customs (Ghana), AS Nigelec (Niger) and National Port Authority - Pythons (Liberia).

Group C (Libreville, Oct 15-20): Forces Armees et Police FAP Basketball (Cameroon), Les Abeilles (Central Africa), Manga (Gabon), Virgen Maria de Africa (Equatorial Guinea), and ASB Mazembe (Democratic Republic of Congo).

Group D (Dar es Salaam, Oct 15-20): Patriots BBC (Rwanda), Hawassa Basketball Club (Ethiopia), City Oilers (Uganda), JKT Basketball Club (Tanzania), Brave Hearts (Malawi), and Dynamo BBC (Burundi).

Group E (host TBD, Oct 22-27): Ferroviario de Maputo (Mozambique), Jozi Nuggets (Republic of South Africa), Mercenaries Basketball (Zimbabwe), Unza Pacers (Zambia), Dolphins (Botswana) and Lions Club (Namibia).

Group F (Antananarivo, Oct 29-Nov 3): Kenya Ports Authority (Kenya), Cobra Sports Club (South Sudan), Gendarmerie Nationale Basket Club (Madagascar), Beau Vallon Heat (Seychelles) and representatives from Comores (Comoro Islands) and Mauritius.

During the Elite 16 tournament expected to tip off later this year or early next year, the 16 teams will be grouped into 2 groups of 8 teams each. The top 3 teams from each of the two groups will be a part of the 12 teams that will play in the inaugural season of the BAL which will tip-off on March 2020. The other 6 spots are reserved for the winners of the respective Premier Basketball Leagues in Nigeria, Senegal, Angola, Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt. Petro de Luanda, Zamalek, AS Sale, and US Monastir are confirmed winners of the respective league in Angola, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia respectively.

The regular season of the BAL will be hosted by six cities - Cairo (Egypt), Dakar (Senegal), Lagos (Nigeria), Luanda (Angola), Rabat (Morocco) and either Monastir or Tunis (Tunisia). When the regular season tips off, the 12 teams will be grouped into two conferences with each conference team playing 5 games each in three of the six host cities.

The top three teams from each conference will advance to the playoffs tagged – Super Six – and will play in a round-robin format to determine the four teams that will participate in the BAL Final Four. The BAL Final Four and the Finals will be single-elimination games played in the Kigali Arena, Rwanda. 

Expectations are already high as partnerships with Nike, Jordan and Pepsi have already been announced. NBA Vice President and Managing Director for Africa, Amadou Gallo Fall has been named President of the league while NBA Africa’s Head of Business Operations John Manyo-Plange will be Vice President and Head of Strategy and Operations of the BAL.

It is time.

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