Justin Sullivan/Getty Former President Barack Obama
Barack Obama is helping take the NBA’s presence in Africa to unused heights.
On Tuesday, the league announced that, through its foundation, the 44th president of the United States is collaborating with NBA Africa “to aid advance the league’s social responsibility efforts across the continent.” The initiatives will include Junior. NBA, Basketball Without Borders Africa, and NBA Academy Africa, as well as many family-based social programs.
“For me, basketball has forever been more than a game,” Obama said. “My first basketball was a gift from my father when I was 10.” In a video message Announcing the partnership. “Later, my grandmother told me she could forever tell me when I’d come home to dinner because she could hear me bouncing the ball on the sidewalk from her apartment 10 stories lofty.”
He continued, “Like a lot of kids at this age, I had occasional fantasies about playing in the NBA. But even though I didn’t have the talent to play at the highest level, basketball still shapes my life. It taught me how to function.” Seriously, how do I compete, how do I be part of a team. I met some of my best friends on the basketball court, and for a lengthy time I would play any game wherever I could.”
One of his favorite aspects of the game, Obama added, “is that it brings people together and empowers young people everywhere.”
“When you start the game, it doesn’t matter what it looks like, where you come from or what language you speak, as lengthy as you can play,” he explained.
He then expanded on why he chose to partner with the NBA, focusing specifically on initiatives in Africa that “promote opportunity, wellness, equality and empowerment.”
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“Africa has the highest youth population in the world, and this unused generation is poised to create positive transformational change,” he said. “By investing in society, promoting gender equality and cultivating a love for the game of basketball, I believe NBA Africa can make a difference for many young people in Africa.”
He concluded by sharing a story about a recent visit to Kenya, where he opened a basketball court in the village where his father grew up.
“It was clear to all of us that Africans are ready to show the world that they are playing,” he said. “So, I’m elated to join the team and NBA Africa as this initiative takes off.”
After opening its African headquarters in Johannesburg in 2010, the National Basketball Association announced earlier this year that it would form NBA Africa. The association’s goal is to expand basketball operations across the continent, starting with the African Basketball League, which played its first season this year.