Africa’s first NBA-endorsed basketball league, the Basketball Africa League (BAL), hits the court for the first time on Sunday 16 at the Kigali Arena in Rwanda.

The tournament’s 26 games, which will be broadcast on ESPN (DStv 218), will feature 12 teams from across the African continent battling it out for a place at the 30 May final, where the first BAL champion will be crowned.

Champions from the national leagues in Angola, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia earned their participation in the inaugural season.

The remaining six teams, which come from Algeria, Cameroon, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique and Rwanda, secured their participation through BAL qualifying tournaments conducted by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) regional office in Africa across the continent in late 2019.

The competition 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 work on a single-elimination basis in all three rounds.

Africa has produced several NBA stars that have graced the sport in the US and Canada, including reigning two-time MVP and Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who hails from Nigeria, as well as current MVP candidate, Philadelphia 76er Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Toronto Raptor Pascal Siakam (Cameroon), among plenty.

It’s hoped the BAL will broaden the game’s popularity across the globe and help unearth other future basketball stars from outside North America.

“For several years, FIBA and the NBA have worked hard to develop basketball across Africa, which makes the launch of the BAL a major milestone,” said Kyle de Klerk, director of sports commercial & business at Walt Disney Company Africa.

“By securing the broadcast rights to this league, we are proud to be playing our part in not only affirming our commitment to broadcasting local sporting content, but also to be celebrating and showcasing Africa’s immense sporting talent to viewing audiences.”

12 African countries competing in the inaugural BAL season:

Algeria – GSP (Groupement Sportif des Pétroliers) 

Angola – Petro de Luanda (Clube Atlético Petroleos de Luanda) 

Cameroon – FAP (Forces Armées et Police Basketball) 

Egypt – Zamalek

Madagascar – GNBC (Gendarmerie Nationale Basketball Club)

Mali – AS Police (Association Sportive de la Police Nationale) 

Morocco – AS Salé (Association Sportive de Salé) 

Mozambique – Ferroviàrio de Maputo

Nigeria – Rivers Hoopers BC (Rivers Hoopers Basketball Club)

Rwanda – Patriots BC (Patriots Basketball Club)

Senegal – AS Douanes (Association Sportive des Douanes)

Tunisia – US Monastir (Union Sportive Monastirienne)