Case 360 - Sports Diplomacy in Africa - The NBA and the Basketball Africa League
This case examines the creation of the Basketball Africa League and its impact on sports diplomacy. Based on the author's experience as a historian, writer, and consultant working at the intersection of global sports, communications, and diplomacy, this case provides a framework through which students can learn about the NBA'S different basketball diplomacy efforts in Africa over time and how those efforts contribute to addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Sport’s ability to cut across the different SDGs makes it a uniquely valuable tool to promote stronger, more resilient communities worldwide. For example, developing a sport—increasing the number of people who play, as well as their access to facilities, while improving skills—can help promote gender equality through greater opportunities for women and girls to engage in sports and learn key skills like leadership. It can strengthen economic development by stimulating local businesses or investment in infrastructure like courts and arenas, as well as the roads and public transportation needed to get fans to matches. Basketball and its practice can help promote public health, education, and access to higher education opportunities through sports scholarships for gifted players, as well as greater social cohesion as people bond together through teamwork toward their on-court goals. Basketball, and sport more broadly, sits at the intersection of development, gender, education, health, ethnicity, migration, and more.
This case challenges students to think critically about a number of questions, such as why the NBA was investing in an African league? How does basketball serve as a driver of globalization, focusing attention on issues that transcend national boundaries, while forging pan-African identity? What is the intersection of sports and diplomacy within the African basketball context, and how can it play a role in furthering African development and diplomacy through the BAL?