The Basketball Africa League (BAL) will begin its inaugural season in May in Rwanda.
The league was supposed to tip off in March 2020 but action was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Basketball Africa League (BAL) today announced that the league’s historic inaugural season will tip off Sunday, May 16 at the Kigali Arena in Kigali, Rwanda, with 12 teams from across Africa competing in the new professional league,” the BAL said in a statement.
The games will take place at the Kigali Arena. The BAL is using the bubble format that helped the NBA complete its 2020 season. A total of 26 games will be played. The season will tip off with an 18-game group phase consisting of 12 teams divided into three groups of four teams each.
The top eight teams from the group phase will qualify for the playoffs, which will be single elimination in all three rounds.
The BAL Finals are scheduled to take place on May 30.
Champions from national leagues in six countries – Angola, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia – were guaranteed representation in the inaugural BAL season. The remaining six teams, which come from Algeria, Cameroon, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique and Rwanda, secured their participation through BAL qualifying tournaments conducted by FIBA Africa across the continent in late 2019.
The BAL said it had put in place “robust” health and safety protocols for the 12 teams and personnel who will be in the East African country for the season.
FIBA Africa and BAL Board President Anibal Manave said the experience of hosting the FIBA AfroBasket 2021 qualifiers in Rwanda late last year will contribute to a “safe and successful” inaugural BAL season.
The statement added that additional details about the BAL season, including the groups, will be released at a later date.
The BAL is a partnership between the International Basketball Federation and the NBA and is a key part of the NBA’s effort to expand the North American brand worldwide. The start of the BAL season will mark the NBA’s first professional basketball league outside of North America.