Last month on 17 March the first-ever Basketball Africa League (BAL) and Special Olympics Unified Sports event took place in Dakar, Senegal. The event was held during halftime of a BAL Sahara Conference game in Dakar Arena that featured Special Olympics athletes competing in a full-court basketball game. The event was accompanied by former professional basketball players Joakim Noah, Ian Mahinmi and Hamchetou Maiga-Ba who helped to facilitate the game and coached the athletes in making key baskets and passes to put on an impressive, competitive performance. The winning shot of the game was taken by Ablaye Ndiaye, Special Olympics Sénégal who is a contender traveling to Special Olympics World Games 2023 in Berlin, Germany. His shot brought the house down!
Special Olympic athletes, Gerard and Caroline, were asked to sit courtside with their coach Abdou Salam for the BAL game and the three were recognized at half court for the inauguration of the event.
“It was by far, for many of us, our favorite moment of the week. Former professional basketball players were all extremely happy and grateful to be coaches and participants in this inaugural event.”
The BAL, a partnership between the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA), is a professional league featuring 12 club teams from across Africa. The BAL builds on the foundation of club competitions FIBA has previously organized in Africa and marks the NBA’s first collaboration to operate a league outside North America. The partnership between Special Olympics and BAL will increase continent-wide awareness and understanding of Special Olympics, its athletes and the impact sport has on the lives of all who partake in it.
This emerging partnership between BAL and Special Olympic Unified Sports® is just being tapped into and will bring more sport opportunities to people with intellectual disabilities. The intent of this partnership is to continue the work Special Olympics has been doing for years and growing the community for people with intellectual disabilities to compete in sport in Africa.