The National Basketball Association (NBA) of the United States plans to build 1,000 basketball courts in Nigeria in a bid to create a talent pool.
Gbemisola Abudu, Vice President of NBA Africa and National Manager of NBA Nigeria, described the project as a blank slate that offers many benefits to the parties involved.
According to Audu, NBA Nigeria has a mandate to create a robust talent pool in Nigeria that will take one from childhood to elite level.
She said, “How do you get kids exposed to basketball at a young age? We make basketball more accessible for them. Whether or not they reach the elite level, they will benefit from teaching life skills basketball. I think it’s a very exciting prospect because it has an impact on infrastructure development in Nigeria.
“Secondly, it’s really this basketball ecosystem. How do you develop a more robust basketball ecosystem? Given what the NBA stands for, we are in a position to influence that in Nigeria, including ensuring that that NBA and Basketball Africa League (BAL) games are accessible across the country, it is not just about certain pockets of individuals having access to basketball games.
She added: “The question is, how can we make sure that the way people go to pubs in Nigeria to watch a football game, you can watch a BAL game in a pub and you can watch a game of NBA easily? This is to ensure that from a free broadcast deal, your average Nigerian has access to basketball. It’s really about bringing the NBA to Nigeria.
According to Audu, one of the amazing things about the platform the NBA brings is that it’s a perfect intersection for all things culture: food, music, fashion, and art.
She said Nigeria has become a supplier of culture to Africa, adding “the challenge is how do we bring all this together for the NBA brand in Nigeria.”
“We have over 200 million people. How do you get a greater percentage of that population to develop an affinity for basketball and specifically develop an affinity for the NBA? We have so many exciting plans. I’m really, really excited,” she added.
The NBA boss has been on a mission to make the most of the platform since establishing the NBA’s footprint in Nigeria with an office in Lagos.
With the NBA boasting a number of high-profile Nigerian-born players over the years, including Greek international Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose original Nigerian surname was Adetokunbo, Abudu and NBA Africa are eager to build wealth talent from the local level.
In response to ESPN’s question about her plan for the region, her goals for youth and social development and to fill the ‘clean slate’ that is Nigeria with basketball courts, she said: “We have existing programs and programs we are looking for. to deploy in the next few months or perhaps to develop partnerships where we seek to renovate existing courts as well as court building initiatives. We aim to build 1,000 courts in the next 10 years.
“What you are already seeing happening is the Nigerian private sector wanting to partner with us and find different and interesting ways to make gaming accessible. Infrastructure is a big part of that, so we’re looking at creative ways, whether that’s renovating existing courts or building courts, and looking at different partnerships to make sure that happens.
Abudu said a legacy pitch was given to Nigeria in the NBA crossover.
“We donated inherited land to the Ikorodu community in Lagos. Essentially, we give young boys and girls in this community a field where they can easily play basketball. But it’s not just about providing a court. It’s like, what kind of programs can we work on with the community to make sure that young boys and girls are actually able to play basketball? ” she says.
She applauded Nigerian players in the NBA and other basketball leagues for their willingness to give back to their country.
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Abudu said, “One thing about Nigerians is that we have a great sense of national pride. Many of these players want to go home. They want to do something. They want to understand how they can be connected to the NBA plan in Nigeria.
“We have summer camps in Nigeria. We are working with them to understand how the NBA can make it easier for them. This is where I give them credit. I’m so proud because it’s not about us trying to reach them and convince them. They say they want to help shed light on everything the NBA does.
Audu is optimistic that the project cannot fail because, according to her, the right investments and the right people are in place.
She said: “For me, the reality is that it can’t fail. It’s just the way I see it, mentally. You put the right investment in place, you partner with the right people, and the love of the game and brand affinity is already there. You put it all together and success is guaranteed.
“There’s this internal drive to make it happen. The best way to describe it is: I’m the face of 1000 people who pushed for this to happen, and now it’s here. So get to work and make it happen and build on what others have built. I don’t believe he can fail. It’s not an experience. It is already a proven concept.