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NBA approves investment into African new basketball league

By News desk

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has concluded plans to invest in African Basketball League, basically to boost development of the sports in the continent.

NBA’s planned investment will be its first professional league outside of North America, and will be hands-on in its operation.

NBA, in partnership with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), is launching the Basketball Africa League in January 2020, featuring 12 teams from across the continent.

Confirming the plan, NBA’s vice president for Africa, Amadou Gallo Fall, told newsmen during an interview in Johannesburg, South Africa, saying, “Our expertise and best practices will be on display. This league will be fully operated by the NBA.

The NBA generated $8 billion in revenue last season, according to Forbes, and industry players say audience interest in Africa has grown alongside the profile of Africans playing in the world’s top basketball league.

Cameroon’s Joel Embiid, a 25-year old center for the Philadelphia 76ers has emerged as a top player in the NBA, signing a five-year contract with the team worth nearly $150 million in 2017.

This season, Embiid and 24-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, born in Greece to Nigerian parents, are contenders to become the NBA’s most valuable player.

The NBA established an Africa office nine years ago. It held its first NBA Africa game in 2015. Games in 2017 and 2018 were played in front of sold-out crowds in South Africa.

Basketball Africa League will involve six national champions — from Nigeria, Angola, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Senegal — who will automatically qualify for the competition. The remaining six will come through international qualifiers later this year.

“It’s an opportunity through our partnership with FIBA to continue to strengthen the basketball ecosystem here,” Fall said.

He did not confirm exactly how much the NBA would be investing in the league but said it was millions of dollars.

As the NBA courts African audiences, African players have been conquering the NBA.

There were 13 African-born players on the rosters of NBA teams at the opening of the 2018/19 season, out of the 108 international players. That rises to about 40 if players with African parents are included, Fall said.

“It tremendously impacts the growth in popularity of the NBA,” he added.

The NBA began in March livestreaming on YouTube two games a week for free for viewers in sub-Saharan Africa, in a bid to build a larger fan base on the continent.

 The league opened an elite basketball academy in Senegal in 2017, which along with its Basketball Without Borders Africa programme, has showcased African talent hoping to play for NBA teams or U.S. colleges.

The next step is for an African basketball team to secure an Olympic medal, Fall said.

“That day is coming soon,” he added.

Nike unveils self lacing shoes, controlled with smartphone

Nike, the global sportswear giant on Tuesday launched some magic shoes that will automatically loosen or tighten when you step into them, and then adapt based on your activity.

Click here to watch Nike’s demonstration.

The Nike Adapt BB shoes, which go on sale on February 17 for $350 in the United States, are controlled by the touch of a button or a smartphone app.

“We picked basketball as the first sport for Nike Adapt intentionally because of the demands that athletes put on their shoes,” Eric Avar, Nike VP creative director of innovation, said in a statement.

Using a custom motor and gear train, “Adapt” technology enables the shoe to be automatically adjusted to the foot.

The app allows the player to load in different fit preferences — for example, game play versus a timeout.

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is the first pitchman for the new shoe.

“That the app allows the ability to put the shoe on and touch the button, change the colors, see the percentage on the battery…it’s just cool,” Tatum said in a statement.

Nike says it plans to bring the system to shoes for other sports.

Nigeria to participate in Volleyball World U-19 Boys Championship

By Sports Desk,

The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) on Friday approved the qualification of Nigeria’s U-19 boys national team to the World Championship in Tunisia in 2019.

The FIVB Vice-President, Dr Amr Elwani, confirmed the participation in a letter to the President, Nigeria Volleyball Federation, Musa Nimrod.

He felicitated with Nigeria over its qualification at the 2018 African Youth Games in Algiers, Algeria in July.

“On behalf of African volleyball family, we have great pleasure to inform you that the FIVB has approved the qualification of your U-19 boys national team to the FIVB 2019 U-19 Boys World Volleyball Championship.

“The competition comes up in Tunisia in 2019.

“This follows the team’s participation in the 2018 African Youth Games that held in Algiers, Algeria, from July 19 to July 23, 2018, and in which Nigeria emerged in position one.

“Kindly accept our sincere congratulations for the team’s qualification and well-wishes in their preparations to represent Africa in the 2019 World Championship,” Elwani said.

Nimrod said: “We promise to make Africa proud at the World Championship in Tunisia.

“The federation will support the players and ensure they are camped early to understand themselves better,’’ the NVBF chief said.

D’Tigress stun Turkey in FIBA Women’s World Cup

By Sports Desk,

D’Tigress, Nigeria’s female basketball team made history at the ongoing FIBA Women’s World Cup in Spain as they stunned Turkey 74-68 in the Group B game decided on Sunday in Tenerife.

It was Nigeria’s first-ever FIBA Women’s World Cup victory and the first time the female team would defeat any European opponent.

With the victory, the Nigerian side, nicknamed D’Tigress, put themselves in a strong position to finish second in Group B

Sarah Ogoke shot the highest point for Nigeria, as her with 22 points helped propel D’Tigress against their formidable counterparts.

Evelyn Akhator also impressed with a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double.

Turkey struggled for much of the game, as Isil Alben contributed 15 points, while Esra Ural Topuz suffered a knee injury.

An elated Ogoke told reporters after the match: “It was great. I have played for a while with the National Team and I felt as though I personally had a point to prove.

“We finally got an opportunity to show what we can do with this historic win against Turkey,” she said.

Coach of D’Tigress, Otis Hughley praised the team’s courage against a respected Turkish side: “Turkey have been through a lot to build that programme and for us to sneak a little shortcut like that…

“I was praying almost on my knees as we’re so inexperienced and young. We came through a lot of adversity and mistakes and were still able to fight off a couple of runs.

“We even held on with some poise,” the coach said.

Senegal, another country representing Africa at the tournament, also recorded their first-ever victory against Latvia to make it a memorable night for Africa.

Nigeria’s final group game will be against Argentina, on Tuesday who are yet to record a victory.


LeBron James agrees to four-year, $154m deal with LA Lakers

By Sports Desk,

LeBron James is to join the Los Angeles Lakers in a deal worth $154m (£116m), his camp has announced after the story appeared to leak on Twitter.

The four-time NBA most value player informed the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday that he was not exercising his $35.6m (£26.8m) option and was becoming a free agent.

News of his next move then leaked on Twitter on Sunday as @chrissyteigen tweeted that she had seen the basketballer with a Lakers jersey.

The official announcement came on Sunday night via a tweet from James’s management company, Klutch Sports group, which read: “LeBron James, four time NBA MVP, three time NBA finals MVP, fourteen time NBA All Star, and two time Olympic gold medallist has agreed to a four year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.”

Shortly after the announcement, James posted a three-photo tribute to Cleveland fans on his Instagram account.

“Thank you Northeast Ohio for an incredible 4 seasons,” Akron-native James wrote. “This will always be home.”

James will join a Lakers team which has missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons, the longest streak in franchise history.

One of the first to react was footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who recently moved to LA Galaxy. He tweeted: “Now LA has a God and a King.”

The Cavaliers had hoped to re-sign James, who has appeared in eight consecutive NBA finals.

It is the second time he has left his home state team – but their fans are likely to forgive him after he ended their 52-year wait for a championship.

Basketball-Holders Fenerbahce defeats Zalgiris, reach Euroleague final

By Sports Desk

Euroleague champion Fenerbahce Istanbul, reached the premier club basketball competition’s final after overpowering Lithuania’s Zalgiris Kaunas 76-67 on Friday.

The Turkish side will battle in Sunday’s title showdown against either Real Madrid or CSKA Moscow, who meet in the second semi-final in the Belgrade Arena.

Roared on by 10,000 fervent supporters, Fenerbahce prevailed thanks to an ironclad defence coupled with a game-high 19 points from playmaker Ali Muhamed.

They forced 20 turnovers by Zalgiris and restricted them to two three-pointers from 10 attempts as they carved out a 50-37 lead midway through the third quarter.

Zalgiris, who were cheered by around 1,000 fans including Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite donning the team’s green-and-white scarf, responded with an 11-0 run to set up a see-saw final period.

Fenerbahce upped the tempo and pulled away to 66-54 on the back of the individual skill of Muhamed who netted 12 points in quick succession as he nailed a pair of three-pointers and a flurry of layups.

Zalgiris scored six unanswered points to restore a glimmer of hope but they ran out of steam and Fenerbahce closed the game out comfortably.

“We played aggressive defence to cancel out their long-range shooting and fan support was also vital,” Fenerbahce’s Serbian forward Nikola Kalinic told reporters.

“Muhamed was inspired, we know he is an outstanding player with the ability to swing matches and that’s what he did.”

D’Tigers to face Australia, New Zealand, Canada in Commonwealth Games

By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Nigeria’s male basketball team, D’Tigers, have been grouped alongside Australia, New Zealand and Canada in the basketball event of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

Australia who finished 4th at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is ranked 10th in the world. Set to make her debut at the Commonwealth, Canada is ranked 25th in the world and has participated in nine Olympic Games and won a silver medal at the 1936 Games in Berlin.

Despite being ranked number 1 in Africa and 32nd in the world, Nigeria is still the lowest ranked team in the group.

New Zealand will be taking part in her 21st Commonwealth Games, having competed at every games since inception in 1930. The group has been dubbed by many as the ‘Group of Death’.

The fixtures released by the organisers recently will see D’Tigers start their campaign against New Zealand on Friday 6th April 2018 before facing Canada, a day later. On Monday, 10th of April, however, the Nigerian side will battle host, Australia.

Reacting to the draws, Vice President of the NBBF, Babatunde Ogunade, described it as a ‘Group of death’. The former Nigerian captain said the team’s performance will be hinged on the preparation for the games and the decision of the players to step up and prove a point.

“We want to use it as preparation for the World Cup qualifier in which case we bring in foreign-based players to join their home grown counterparts for a longer period, get more practice and bonding time for the team.

“We will use the opportunity of the Commonwealth camping to prepare for the World Cup qualifiers too.”

The Commonwealth Games holds from April 4 to 15, 2018.

D’Tigers to open cam ahead 2019 World Cup qualifiers

By Emmanuel Onminyi,

The Nigeria Basketball Federation has said that plans are in progress to ensure the male basketball team gets the best assistance to qualify for the 2019 World cup.

D’Tigers, who will begin their quest for the world cup ticket in February 2018, will, according to the NBBF, open camp with domestic players early enough before their foreign counterparts join the team.

NBBF stated that the board would also roll out plans on its activities by January to enable sponsors and stakeholders get involved in the game to ensure basketball excels in 2018.

The Federation also declared that the national basketball team’s coaches have started making arrangements to get the best players to battle for the world cup ticket.

A statement released by the body reads: “D’Tigers would begin preparations for the world cup ticket early February with domestic players because the foreign based players would be in action for their various clubs at that time. So they will join the team as preparations progresses.

“The NBFF would announce its activities by January. Also plans are on deck to ensure the male and female basketball league get a new look next year.”

Nigeria will be contending in group B which consist of Mali, Rwanda and Uganda in the World Cup qualifiers. The games will hold from February 23 to 25.

Airline issues apology for wrongly accusing basketball players

By Emmanuel Onminyi,

American Airlines has issued an apology after two black basketball players were recently kicked off a flight for being wrongly accused of stealing blankets from the first class cabin.

Marquis Teague and Trahson Burrell who both play for National Basketball Association minor league team, Memphis Hustle, were removed from a flight on Christmas Eve after being accused by a black male flight attendant of taking the blankets without permission.

But American Airlines has since issued an apology to the pair, who were on their way from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for a match, after confirming that they had been given the blankets by other passengers as they walked through first class on their way to their seats.

According to American Airlines spokesman, Joshua Freed, who also confirmed that the incident is being reviewed internally: “We apologise for what occurred on this flight. We take pride in bringing people together, and we know that on this flight we let some of our customers down.”

“Our team at American, along with Envoy Air, is reviewing what happened, and will be reaching out to them.”

Neither Teague nor Burrell has commented on the incident, but their assistant coach, Darnell Lazere, took to Twitter to express his believe that the motive behind the false accusations was driven by their race.

He wrote: “How about you teach people to get the facts first before jumping to conclusions. #beingblackinamerica.”

Nigeria given Wild card, to participate at FIBA 3 on 3 World Cup

By Emmanuel Onminyi,

Nigeria will compete in the 2018 FIBA 3 on 3 World Cup holding in Manila, Philippines from June 8 to 12, 2018 after being awarded a wild card by the Federation of International Basketball Associations, FIBA.

This latest decision was relayed through a letter to the Nigeria Basketball Federation led by Musa Kida by FIBA 3 on 3 Development Manager, Robert Rieblinger.

The 3 on 3 team captained by Abdul Yahaya to their first FIBA Africa 3 on 3 Nations Cup title in Lome, Togo recently were deemed to be in good standing to be awarded the wildcard.

Nigeria is currently ranked 5th in Africa and 67th in the world, and will be making their first appearance at the world stage in the history of the 3 on 3 World Cup.

In his reaction, the NBBF’s President, Musa Kida, thanked FIBA for the privilege accorded the federation and its players to be part of the 2018 World Cup.

“As part of our campaign promises, we will endeavor to expose our talents home and abroad to the best opportunities to improve their skills and become great. The promised exposure can only be possible through participation in international events such as this,” Kida said.

Kida said that the latest decision to award Nigeria a wildcard is a direct result of the improved status of the country as a basketball playing nation since they assumed office.

“With another round of camping, traveling and participation of our 3 on 3 team at the World Cup already on the card, it means we will need more money to actualize these plans. The government alone cannot fund sports, so we will be reaching out to corporate organizations and individuals to partner the federation ahead of a busy 2018 basketball calendar,” he noted.