NBA to build 1,000 basketball courts in Nigeria

NBA to build 1,000 basketball courts in Nigeria

The National Basketball Association (NBA) of the United States wants to build 1,000 basketball courts in Nigeria in order to develop a talent pool.

NBA Africa vice-president and country head, NBA Nigeria, Gbemisola Abudu, hailed the project as a “clean slate” with various benefits for all parties involved.

NBA Nigeria, according to Audu, has a mandate to build a strong talent pool in Nigeria that would take players from childhood to elite levels.

She said: “How do we get kids to be exposed to basketball at a young age? We’re making basketball more accessible for them. Whether they make it all the way to the elite level or not, they’ll benefit from the life skills basketball teaches. I think that’s a very exciting prospect because that impacts infrastructure development in Nigeria.

“Secondly, it’s really this basketball ecosystem. How do we develop a more robust basketball ecosystem? Given what the NBA represents, we are able to influence that in Nigeria, part of which is making sure that NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) games are accessible across the country. It’s not a matter of just the certain pockets of individuals having access to basketball games.

She added: “The question is: how do we ensure that the way people go to pubs in Nigeria to watch a football game, you can watch a BAL game in a pub and you can watch an NBA game easily? It’s making sure that from a free-to-air arrangement, your average Nigerian has access to basketball. It’s really about bringing the NBA to Nigeria.”

According to Audu, one of the amazing things about the platform the NBA brings is that it’s a perfect intersection for all things culture: food, music, fashion and art.

She said Nigeria had become a purveyor of culture in Africa, adding “that the challenge is how to bring all of that together for the NBA brand in Nigeria.”

“We have over 200 million people. How do you get a larger percentage of that population to develop an affinity for basketball and specifically develop an affinity for the NBA? We have so many exciting plans. I’m really, really excited,” she added.

The NBA boss is on a mission to make the best of the platform since establishing NBA’s footprint in Nigeria with an office in Lagos.

With the NBA boasting a number of high-profile Nigeria-origin players over the years, including Greece international Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose original Nigerian surname was Adetokunbo, Abudu and NBA Africa are eager to develop the wealth of talent from the grassroots level up.

In an answer to ESPN’s question on her plan for the region, goals for the youth and social development and for filling the ‘blank slate’ that is Nigeria with basketball courts, she said: “We have existing programmes and programmes that we’re looking to roll out in the next coming months or maybe to develop partnerships where we’re looking to refurbish existing courts and also court-building initiatives. We have a goal of building 1,000 courts in the next 10 years.

“What you see happening already is the private sector in Nigeria wanting to partner with us and finding different, interesting, ways to make the game accessible. Infrastructure is a big part of it, so we’re looking at creative ways, whether it’s refurbishing existing courts or building courts, and looking at different partnerships to make sure that is happening.”

Abudu said a legacy court was donated in Nigeria during the NBA crossover.

“We donated a legacy court to the Ikorodu community in Lagos. Basically, we’re giving the young boys and girls in that community a court where they can easily play basketball. But it’s not just providing a court. It’s like, what kind of programmes can we work with the community on to make sure that young boys and girls are really able to play basketball?” she said.

She applauded Nigerian players in the NBA and other basketball leagues for their drive to give back to their country.

Abudu said: “One thing about Nigerians is that we have a major sense of national pride. A lot of these players want to come back home. They want to do something. They want to figure out how they can be plugged into the NBA’s plan in Nigeria.

“We have summer camps in Nigeria. We’re working with them to figure out how the NBA can facilitate them with that. That’s where I give them credit. I’m so proud because it’s not a matter of us trying to reach out to them and convince them. They’re saying they want to help shed light on whatever the NBA is doing.”

Audu is optimistic that the project cannot fail because, according to her, the right investment and people are in place.

She said: “To me, the reality is it can’t fail. That’s just the way I see it, mentally. You put the right investment in place, you partner with the right people, and the love of the game and the affinity for the brand already exists. You bring all of that together and it’s guaranteed to succeed.

“There is that internal drive to make it happen. The best way to describe this is: I am the face of 1000 people who have been pushing for this to happen, and now here it is. So, get to work and make it happen and build on what others have built. I don’t believe it can fail. It’s not an experiment. It’s already a proven concept.”

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