Ugo Udezue is a former Nigeria international basketball player who worked in the USA developing African players after he retired professionally. He resigned his lucrative job in the USA and returned to Lagos where he is helping the African continent with Continental Basketball League and AFA Sports products. He spoke with a group of reporters in Lagos…
What are your thoughts on the new NBA League in Africa BAL?
I am excited about the NBA coming to Africa. It quite obvious the CBL (Continental Basketball League) initiative showed the opportunity for a private basketball league in Africa, so in a way, we are happy to be part of the process. Basketball serves as a catalyst to empower Africa which has the youngest demography in the world.
How do you think the NBA/BAL will benefit Africa?
We hope it drives the local sports industry not just a talent acquisition plan for the NBA, and revenue generated is used to push a holistic local sports industry around the BAL. I understand it is a business and most investors will rather look at the bottom line than a long term opportunity driven by a social empowerment approach versus profits.
What’s the latest plan for the CBL?
We will announce the commencement of our league soon. We have been focused on infrastructure development and long term strategies and partnerships. As a matter of fact, we have added up more teams and more countries and so the expansion continues.
How do you intend to compete with the NBA?
We do not see the NBA as a competition. I believe our directions and opportunities are different. Africa needs about 10 leagues to tap into its vast resources. I think it’s myopic to look at it in terms of competition. There are 54 countries in Africa and the NBA cannot cover it all, I think our league should be encouraged and not looked as a competition. Our only advantage is that we are first in the market and understand the grassroots better.
Have you resolved any issues with FIBA?
In my opinion, I don’t see any issues between us and FIBA. We are a private sports enterprise that’s not affiliated with government or federations. We have approached them for help in the past. The CBL has brought attention to the opportunities of a league in Africa and I believe with more support from the federations and FIBA the opportunities will continue to grow for all parties. In most continents, we have multiple leagues and most recently the BIG3 in the United States and Africa is a fairly untapped sports market.
And what about your relationship with the Nigerian Federation?
As you must have noted, there were no issues with even the former NBBF board during our second season and so everyone is getting along now as they now see a bigger picture. And you know that a board is in place now with Musa Kida as the head.
I can say there is greater understanding and partnership than we had. We are confident that CBL will help Nigeria basketball league develop greatly in terms of the game and business and this the new board understands.
What is the future of CBL?
We have actually garnered a lot of support in the past couple of months. We intend to escalate our investments. We are focused on markets that are the hardest to develop in terms of opportunity but lucrative in terms of the love of the game and social engagements. After the euphoria and exfoliation, we will have a clear advantage of been Africa owned and Africa focused.