The Basketball Africa League (BAL) finals tipped off Saturday in Rwanda’s capital of Kigali, with eight teams competing for the league title.
The BAL finals will run from May 21 – 28 and began with two games at a jam-packed Kigali Arena.
Petro de Luanda of Angola and AS Sale of Morocco, two former African champions, opened the games, with the team from Angola advancing to the semifinals after winning 102-89.
In the other game, Rwanda Energy Group from Rwanda (REG) took on Forces Armees et Police (FAP) from Cameroon.
Four other teams will take to the floor Sunday to complete the quarterfinals.
Entry of fans inside Kigali Arena is allowed in respect of coronavirus protocols.
The games are a display of some of Africa’s best basketball talent with most teams having at least five national players from their respective countries.
The teams are top clubs from Morocco, South Africa, Cameroon, Angola, Rwanda, Guinea, Tunisia and Egypt.
Apart from Cape Town Tigers from South Africa, Rwanda’s Rwanda Energy Group and Seydou Legacy Athletique Club (SLAC) of Guinea, the other five teams were featured in the inaugural BAL last year in Kigali.
Zamalek from Egypt will be looking to protect their continental crown after winning the championship in the inaugural BAL tournament last year by beating US Monastir of Tunisia 76-63.
The BAL is the first professional league of its kind to be run by the NBA outside North America.
It is a new professional league, featuring top club teams from across Africa and is a result of a partnership between the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the NBA.
As part of the BAL Elevate program, each team have one top prospect from the NBA Academy Africa.
After 30 regular-season games, Terrel Stoglin from Morocco’s AS Sale leads the league in scoring, averaging 33.2 points per game.
Ater Majok from Tunisia’s US Monastir is the most dominant player in the paint with an average of 13.2 rebounds.
No other player protected the rim as ferociously as Chris Obekpa from Guinea’s Seydou Legacy Athletique Club who leads the league with 4.6 blocks per game.
Earlier Saturday, speaking at a Moving Sports Forward Forum, co-hosted by the Giants of Africa and Basketball Africa League, where they discussed the development of sports on the continent, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said he felt happy and proud that Rwanda is hosting the BAL for the second time.
Also in attendance were President of Basketball Africa League, Amadou Gallo Fall, Victor Williams, chief executive of NBA Africa and Luol Deng, a former two-time NBA All-Star.