The N.B.A. Sees Its Future in Africa

The league has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to cultivate an immense potential fan base on the continent and develop future stars.

On an outdoor basketball court surrounded by seashell-scattered sand last month, a man coached a group of teenage girls through a drill. The staccato pounding of their dribbles alternated in the hot air with a tinnier sound in the distance: men hammering nails into wood while a bleating white billy goat looked on.

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The coach, Abibou Sall, 34, instructed his players to dribble along the sideline, first with their left hands, then their right. Don’t look down at the ball, he told them, wanting the girls to learn to trust their hands.

Sall is a physical trainer for the Pikine Basket Club, which practices at the Jacques Chirac Center. About 600 children play basketball at this recreational center in Pikine, a suburb bordering Dakar. The youngest players, ages 6 to 7, are introduced to the game on mini hoops. The oldest are 18. Sall is also a die-hard fan of the National Basketball Association.

It is a picture that would delight the N.B.A. — a devotee of its league teaching basketball to youngsters on a continent in which it sees tremendous economic opportunity.

Recently, after finishing with his club duties, Sall had been staying up late to watch the playoffs — the games often start after 11 p.m. local time — even after his favorite player, LeBron James, was eliminated in the first round.

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Source: Basketball -


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