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Amadou Fall hopeful Basketball Africa League will still debut this year

The NBA’s new league in Africa was postponed due to coronavirus concerns

Basketball Africa League president Amadou Fall said he is still hopeful the NBA’s new 12-team league will debut this year after recently being delayed because of concerns about the coronavirus.

The NBA planned to debut the Basketball Africa League (BAL) March 13 in Dakar, Senegal, but announced the postponement Tuesday.

“There is a lot of excitement for this historic league, but you have to adjust to the circumstances,” Fall told The Undefeated in a phone interview from Dakar. “We are delaying because it’s a global circumstance that makes this sporting event and the events surrounding it secondary. We put the health of our committed teams and everyone at large first. We’d love to tip-off, but we respect the circumstances and will pick another date. …

“I don’t want to speculate on a date. But our intention is to launch as soon as circumstances permit. We didn’t cancel the league. We delayed it.”

The inaugural BAL season is to include 12 qualifying teams from Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Egypt, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Tunisia, culminating with a four-team championship series in Kigali, Rwanda, that was originally scheduled for late May.

The first weekend of the BAL was expected to include five games from March 13-15 between teams from Algeria, Angola, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco and Senegal. NBA commissioner Adam Silver, two-time NBA All-Star and BAL ambassador Luol Deng and Basketball Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo were expected to attend.

According to the Associated Press, the virus, officially known as COVID-19, has infected nearly 97,000 people worldwide and killed more than 3,300, most of them in China. Africa has recorded fewer cases of the coronavirus than other continents, according to CNN. There have been four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Senegal. Algeria, meanwhile, reportedly has 17 cases. Cases have also been confirmed in Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa and Tunisia.

There have been numerous sporting events that have been canceled worldwide or played without an audience of late due to concerns about the coronavirus. Fall said the Senegalese government recommended that the BAL postpone the start due to “escalating health concerns.”

“We decided to postpone the BAL after the news about the coronavirus unfolded around the world and cases around the continent,” Fall said. “It was not a decision we agonized over. We wanted to debut the BAL under the right circumstances. It’s something that will be historic. But all over the continent, our teams felt good about our decision.”

Fall said he is still focusing his efforts on the debut of the league, spending most of his time in Dakar, where its new headquarters is located.

Fall said the BAL has 10 employees based in Dakar still working diligently on the potential debut of the league, and the league is continuing to work with partners that include Nike and Brand Jordan.

“This is my 100% focus. It’s about building and launching the BAL,” Fall said. “The extra time helps, but my focus is on the BAL.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.