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With Global View, NBA Taking Game to Africa

DALLAS -- The National Basketball Association became a little more international Saturday.

Commissioner David Stern announced that the league will open an office this spring in Johannesburg, South Africa, where Amadou Gallo Fall and a small staff will work to promote the game, encourage development and expand partnerships.

"We think it's an extraordinary opportunity," said Stern, who later explained that the NBA plans "to invest in Africa." He said Fall was a slam-dunk choice to head the new office.

Before joining the NBA as its vice president of development in Africa, Fall worked with the Dallas Mavericks as their director of player personnel and vice president of international affairs. He also worked in Africa with the NBA's Basketball Without Borders, a developmental program that goes beyond the sport to encourage education and social responsibility.

"My story is a testament to the power of sports," Fall said, "and to sport as a tool for development."

Discovered at a basketball camp in Africa by a member of the Peace Corps, Fall went on to play for the University of the District of Columbia, where he graduated magna cum laude. In 1997, he put together a Senegal team that won the African Championship. Prior to joining the Mavericks, he worked in Senegal with the Ministry of Youth and Sport. He's also the founder of the SEED (Sports for Education and Economic Development) Academy.

"There is tremendous potential to grow the game in Africa," Stern said, "and the opening of an NBA office will help us to expand our business in the region.... With a presence on the ground, we can enhance our ability to increase our social responsibility efforts and develop more activities to engage our fans."

Heidi Ueberroth, the NBA's president of international business operations, said the league never has been more optimistic about its future and especially about its future abroad. "Africa is a priority," she said.

Hakeem Olajuwon of Nigeria, selected in the first round of the NBA Draft in 1984, was the first native African to play in the league. Since then, 24 more Africans have played in the NBA. And some were on hand for Saturday's announcement, including the NBA's official global ambassador, Dikembe Mutombo of Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Also on hand was Rolando Blackman, the former Mavericks standout who's now the team's director of basketball development. He described Africa as a "bastion" of talent that needed only some positive input and organization to realize its potential.

Sponsored by the U.S. State Department, various NBA and WBA players have participated in humanitarian efforts, as well as basketball camps, throughout Africa. Former players visited Mozambique and Uganda last year.

Today's NBA All-Star Game will be televised in 41 languages in 215 countries, including every country on the African continent.

Gary West, 817-390-7760

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