In 2020, FIBA’s Africa Basketball League was replaced by Basketball Africa League (BAL), a new division of top-tier basketball play that spans the continent. The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Africa has run since 1961, and the association included national teams from 54 of Africa’s countries.
Under FIBA Africa, the AfroBasket, AfroCan, and a variety of youth championships were played annually for decades. Only top clubs from these competitions were eligible to play in Africa Basketball League, which meant that competition was tight – and it will continue to be so now that the BAL has been formed.
Much like FIBA’s Africa Basketball League, many fans are expecting top clubs from Angola and Egypt to continue their reign, who have won 12 and 5 titles respectively over the course of the league’s run. However, as the Africa Basketball League becomes the BAL, many locals wonder if a club team from Uganda can make a turnaround as momentous as a team like the LA Clippers, who now boast good odds for the NBA championship from the US’s own National Basketball league (NBA). After all, the BAL is created and sponsored not only by FIBA, but by the NBA, as well, and if a team as hopeless as the LA Clippers can make a comeback, why not a club from Uganda like the City Oilers or the Kyambogo Warriors?
Top BAL Candidates
Since FIBA’s Africa Basketball League held its first Club’s Champion Cup in 1972, clubs across the continent have competed in their own respective national leagues in order to fight for a position in the continental competition. Like any league, there have been underdogs and reigning champions, as well as decades when a team becomes unbeatable before returning to the ranks of other clubs.
The final 2018-19 ABL season saw the Primeiro de Agosto team from Angola takes its final title to cement itself as the all-time winner of FIBA’s Africa Basketball League with 9 titles. Behind Primeiro de Agosto is ASFA of Senegal, with only three titles, giving the Angolan team a wide berth of victory. Behind these top two clubs, five teams share two titles each, ranging from countries Egypt, Angola, Ivory Coast, and the Central African Republic.
Uganda’s national team, like its club teams, hasn’t performed well in FIBA competitions in the past. Unfortunately for the nation, they didn’t qualify for the debut 2020 BAL season by a razor-thin margin. In fact, the honor of competing in BAL went to only 12 premier clubs from around the continent, ranging from Egypt, Angola, Nigeria, Algeria, Senegal, Morocco, Mali, Madagascar, and Uganda’s neighbor, Rwanda.
The top powerhouse teams have come into the competition with a high number of national titles under their belts, like Petro de Luanda from Angola who has 13 titles from national leagues, as well as Zamalek from Giza, Egypt with 14 titles and GS Pétroliers from Algiers, Algeria with a stunning 20 title wins.
In Uganda, top national basketball league teams include the aforementioned City Oilers and Kyambogo Warriors. Neither team was successful in their bid to make it past the BAL qualifiers, and, moreover, their attempts to make it into BAL caused tension within Uganda’s National Basketball League (NBL). In fact, the NBL has seen recent turnover due to difficulties in rescheduling the NBL league to allow the City Oilers attend their BAL qualifier. The City Oilers requested that the NBL finals for 2019 be rescheduled, which caused ample controversy, especially considering the City Oilers have won the NBL championship every year since 2014 and have multiple other teams hungry for the title.
The City Oilers, as national champions, were the only Ugandan basketball team to compete in the BAL qualifiers. Unfortunately, the team placed 4th in the East Division, which included six tops teams. Only the top three competitors from each the East and West Divisions went on to the BAL league, which means that the City Oilers barely missed their opportunity to qualify.
However, 2020 qualifying rounds will soon be under way. As the ongoing NBL champions, the City Oilers will be first in line to compete once again in the BAL qualifiers. However, the NBL would do well to continue league play with minimal interruption and tension so as to increase the Oilers’ ability to improve their play.