[INTERVIEW] Dikembe Mutombo Is Going To Cry When The Basketball Africa League Tips Off: “It’s A Dream Come True”

Photo by Len Werle / OpenCourt-Basketball

[INTERVIEW] Dikembe Mutombo Is Going To Cry When The Basketball Africa League Tips Off: “It’s A Dream Come True”


Without the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon, Manute Bol and Dikembe Mutombo – the first African players who made a name for themselves in the NBA – we wouldn’t have today’s African generation with players like Joel Embiid, Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam, in the league.

But since the NBA has since developed into a global product, it only makes sense  for them to further build and develop talent. With many on the African being underprivileged, and without a real chance to make something out of their talent, the Basketball Africa League is there to change things for many of the talented African basketball players.

The Basketball Africa League, unveiled the rosters of all 12 BAL teams today, ahead of its inaugural season, which tips off Sunday, May 16 at 10 a.m. ET at the Kigali Arena in Rwanda.

BAL rosters feature 154 players from 24 countries across Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the U.S.

Each of the 12 teams, from 12 different African countries, will have up to 13 players. But at least nine of the players on each team’s roster have to be citizens of the respective country. Up to four players from other countries are allowed on the roster, but no more than two players per team from outside of Africa.

Since the league was planned to have its inaugural season last year – it had to be pushed back due to the global Coronavirus pandemic – this interview I recorded during the NBA’s Global Game 2020 event in Paris with NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo originally was supposed to be broadcasted for the start of the Basketball Africa League in 2020.

The interview though is just as relevant today, as it was last year. And Dikembe surely is just as proud of the BAL  as he was back then.


“We are six weeks away to celebrate the first game with the league of its own in the continent of Africa. Run by Africans, played by Africans… this is a big milestone. I think I’m going to cry on that first day…

… I think it’s a dream come true. Especially for Hakeem Olajuwon, who was our first brother to come here, and my late brother Manute Bol, myself… those who set the path for all those young Africans that came later. 

We have so many kids who love the game of basketball. So many kids in Africa who would love to play the game on an NBA stage. But not everybody will have the chance to go to America. The NBA thinking about creating such a league, this big league we’re going to call the BAL, here in the continent of Africa, will be great. I think it will change the dynamic, the way young players go from Africa to the United States. Now they can develop their talent, stay home, be seen and be known publicly just from Africa, and they’ll have an easy transition to the NBA.”



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.” In the U.S, all games will be available on ESPN+ while the opening game and Finals will also air on ESPNews.  

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