The National Basketball Association (NBA) today officially tipped off the Jr. NBA League at the Jakaya M. Kikwete Youth Park (JMK Youth Park) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
WNBA Legend and All-Star Allison Feaster attended the inaugural event, which marked the start of the school-based Jr. NBA League for Tanzanian boys ages 12-14. The league will feature 30 local schools, representing each of the 30 NBA teams. The Jr. NBA League for Tanzanian girls is scheduled to begin next year.
The Jr. NBA, the league’s global youth basketball participation program for boys and girls, teaches the fundamental skills as well as the core values of the game at the grassroots level in an effort to help grow and improve the youth basketball experience for players, coaches and parents. During the 2015-16 season, the Jr. NBA will reach more than 6.5 million youth in 33 countries.
“After the successful opening of the Jakaya M. Kikwete Youth Park last October, we are excited to launch the inaugural Jr. NBA League in Tanzania here at the park today,” said NBA Vice President & Managing Director for Africa Amadou Gallo Fall. “The newly established league will encourage young boys and girls to stay active and motivate others to come out and enjoy the game of basketball.”
JMK Youth Park represents the corporate social responsibility efforts of Symbion Power in Dar es Salaam, which has had a long-term presence in Tanzania through the development and operation of a series of power projects throughout the country. Symbion developed and financed the JMK Youth Park, and the NBA is supporting Symbion with the Jr. NBA League.
“The NBA and Symbion have formed a great association in Africa and it’s wonderful to be a part of the first-ever Jr. NBA League at the sports park that Symbion built in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania,” said Symbion Power CEO Paul Hinks. “It’s heartening to see the excitement on the faces of all the kids who are here today.”
“This is my first time in Tanzania and I am thrilled to have seen so many kids with a passion for the game of basketball in Dar es Salaam,” said Feaster. “I am honoured to have been a part of the tip-off of the first Jr. NBA League in this country.”
Feaster was drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks in 1998. She spent three seasons with the Sparks before moving to the Charlotte Sting from 2001-06. She finished her WNBA career with the Indiana Fever in 2008. Feaster was named to the 2004 WNBA All-Star team, which faced Team USA in its preparation for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Similar to the NBA, the 30 teams are divided into two conferences and six divisions. The top eight teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs in October. The top two teams from each conference will then meet in the league championship game to determine the first Jr. NBA League champion at JMK Youth Park.
The NBA has a long history in Africa with 65 players with ties to the continent featured on NBA rosters since Hakeem Olajuwon was first drafted in 1984. Through NBA Cares, 61 places to live, learn or play have been created in Africa, and Basketball without Borders Africa has been held 13 times. The league opened an African headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2010. On August 1, 2015, Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg hosted NBA Africa Game 2015, the first NBA game on the continent, in a Team Africa versus Team World format.