Justin Sullivan/Getty Former President Barack Obama
Barack Obama is helping take the National Basketball Association's presence in Africa to new heights.
On Tuesday, the league announced that, through his foundation, the 44th President of the United States is partnering with NBA Africa to "help advance the league's social responsibility efforts across the continent." Initiatives will include Jr. NBA, Basketball Without Borders Africa and NBA Academy Africa, as well as several family-based social programs.
"For me, basketball has always been more than a game. My first basketball was a gift from my father when I was 10 years old," Obama said in a video message announcing the partnership. "Later on, my grandmother told me she could always tell when I was coming home for dinner because she could hear me bouncing the ball down the sidewalk from her apartment, 10 stories up."
He continued, "Like a lot of kids that age, I had occasional fantasies about playing in the NBA. But even though I never had the talent to play at the highest level, basketball still shaped my life. It taught me how to work hard, how to compete, how to be part of a team. I met some of my closest friends on the basketball court, and for a long time I would fit in a game wherever I could."
Obama added that one of his favorite aspects of the game is that "it brings people together and empowers young people everywhere."
"When a game gets going, it doesn't matter what you look like, where you come from or what language you speak, as long as you can play," he explained.
He then expanded on why he's chosen to partner with the NBA, focusing specifically on initiatives in Africa that "promote opportunity, wellness, equality, and empowerment."
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"Africa has the highest percentage of youth population in the world, and this new generation is poised to create positive transformative change," he said. "By investing in community, promoting gender equality and cultivating the love of the game of basketball, I believe that NBA Africa can make a difference for so many of Africa's young people."
He concluded by sharing a story about a recent visit to Kenya, where he opened a basketball court in the village where his father grew up.
"It was clear to all of us that Africans are poised to show the world that they've got game," he said. "So, I am proud to join the team and NBA Africa as this initiative is taking off."
After opening its African headquarters in Johannesburg in 2010, the NBA announced earlier this year that it would be forming NBA Africa. The association's goal is to expand basketball operations across the continent, starting with the Basketball Africa League, which played its first season this year.