Going global: the NBA sets its sights on Africa

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Authors: Jason Means and John Nauright
Date: Oct. 2007
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing, Ltd.
Document Type: Article
Length: 6,455 words
Lexile Measure: 1450L

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This paper examines the US National Basketball Association's choice of South Africa as the primary location for its 'Basketball Without Borders' camp, with the long-term future of basketball in Africa in mind. It explores the associated basketball and community outreach activities of the camp and analyses whether the NBA is meeting its objectives for development of the sport.





Basketball Without Borders

Dikembe Mutombo

Executive summary

Over the past several years professional sports leagues in North America have sought to expand their fan bases and marketability beyond their own continent as the marketplace in North America becomes ever more saturated. While much of the thrust has centred on Europe and Asia, the National Basketball Association (NBA) at least has not ignored other regions such as South America and Africa. In particular, NBA Basketball Without Borders (BWOB) camps have been held in many locations, including South Africa.

This paper examines why South Africa was chosen as the primary location for BWOB, and how the NBA is establishing itself there with the long-term future of basketball in Africa in mind. What occurs at the camp in terms of basketball and community outreach activities is also explored. Finally, an analysis of whether the NBA is meeting the goals it has set for itself, the community and for basketball development is offered, along with a view of what the future may hold for the NBA, Africa and its up-and-coming basketball players.

It is clear that BWOB can serve as a model programme for a synergistic approach to development through sport and the expansion of sports markets.


The BWOB inaugural event took place in Europe in the summer of 2001. Led by seven prominent NBA players, 50 children received basketball instruction in Treviso, Italy. Since then BWOB has grown to encompass four continents and is currently held in Beijing, China; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Johannesburg, South Africa ('NBA basketball stars', 2005). Beginning with the Africa 100 camp in 2003, the NBA began to expand the interest in basketball across the continent, utilising formal education and community outreach initiatives. This programme morphed into BWOB Africa in 2004 and is now an annual event for the NBA ('NBA players unite', 2003).

The NBA goals are simple. According to Commissioner David Stern: "Basketball Without Borders is a global programme that brings people together to discuss important social issues such as HIV/AIDS prevention while emphasising the importance of education and healthy living." He has stated that a major goal of the programme is to "help young people from diverse national and economic backgrounds come together and learn through the sport of basketball" ('NBA basketball stars', 2005). This grassroots development will allow for the exploration, development and nurturing of the top youth basketball talent on a continent that has just begun to develop a basketball infrastructure. The camp will promote education, sportsmanship, leadership and healthy living through basketball instruction, educational seminars and community outreach activities in partnership with local organisations who share goals with the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A172135142