The Basketball Africa League has announced a series of international broadcast partners ahead of its inaugural season, including ESPN and NBA TV in the United States.
The BAL will tip off on May 16 when Rwanda’s Patriots Basketball Club takes on Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers at Kigali Arena in Kigali, Rwanda.
The new league, which is a joint venture between the National Basketball Association and world governing body Fiba, was initially due to begin play in Dakar, Senegal, in March 2020 but it was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a change in format, the BAL will comprise 12 teams from across Africa playing 26 games in Kigali rather than the initial plan of playing in different countries throughout the continent.
In a widespread broadcast agreement, Canal+ and ESPN will air all 26 BAL games across Francophone and Anglophone countries and territories in sub-Saharan Africa. Canal+ will also produce and distribute original ancillary programming, including weekly magazine show BAL Action.
VOA will broadcast 24 games, including select games in English, French, Portuguese, Kinyarwanda, Bambara and Wolof across its extensive radio network in Africa, with additional programming across its online and mobile platforms.
BeIN Sports will air all 26 games in Arabic in the Middle East and North Africa, including the opening game, quarterfinals, semifinals and Finals. Select free-to-air channels throughout Africa will also air BAL games, including the opening game, quarterfinals, semifinals and Finals.
In the US, all games will be available on streaming service ESPN+ while the opening game and Finals will also air on ESPNews.
ESPN will air the opening game and Finals in select countries in Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America, and all BAL games will air on ESPN’s digital platforms in those same regions.
BAL games and programming will also be available in Canada on TSN and in China on Tencent Video.
AFN, which is distributed in 168 countries and territories to American military bases and ships at seas, will air select games live and on delay throughout the season.
NBA TV will broadcast 12 live games and select games on delay in the US and around the world across the group phase, quarterfinals, semifinals and Finals.
All BAL games will livestream on the NBA App, the official NBA website nba.com and the official BAL website, theBAL.com.
“We’re excited to work with this group of world-class distribution partners to broadcast our historic inaugural season,” said Amadou Gallo Fall, BAL president. “I encourage basketball fans in Africa and around the world to tune in on May 16 and throughout the season to see the best talent in Africa and beyond compete for the right to be crowned the first BAL champion.”
The BAL will tip off with an 18-game group phase with the 12 teams divided into three groups of four. During the group phase, each team will face the three other teams in its group once. The top eight teams from the group phase will qualify for the playoffs, which will be single elimination in all three rounds.
The creation of the BAL represents one of the most dramatic steps in the NBA’s ongoing globalization efforts, an initiative that already has taken the league to China and India in significant fashion, and has created expanded ambitions for Europe.
According to ESPN’s The Undefeated, American rapper J. Cole will play for Rwandan side the Patriots BBC in the BAL, a move which has already generated significant interest in the States.
J. Cole, 36, was a walk-on at St. John’s University before he turned his attentions to music. BAL teams are allowed up to four foreign players.
Nike and Jordan Brand will jointly supply the teams with official game uniforms, warm-up apparel, socks and practice gear – with six teams featured in Nike and the other six in Jordan Brand.