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Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri to produce Basketball Africa League series – Sports Africa

Toronto Raptors Vice-Chairman and President Masai Ujiri has joined the new landmark documentary series on Basketball Africa League (BAL) as an Executive Producer.

Ujiri, who was the architect behind the Raptors’ historic 2019 NBA Championship, will serve as an Executive Producer on the series, which is being directed by up-and-coming South African director Tebogo Malope.

Ujiri’s inspiring commitment to his work off court remains unwavering, where he also serves as President of Giants of Africa, the non-profit he co-founded in 2003, which uses basketball as a tool to educate and enrich the lives of African youth.

Fremantle & Passenger are producing the series, which tells the story of the creation, launch and inaugural season of the BAL, a new professional basketball league in Africa featuring 12 club teams from across the African continent.

The first edition of BAL took place in May in Kigali, Rwanda.

Working closely alongside Showrunner and Executive Producer Richard Brown (TRUE DETECTIVE, CATCH 22) as well as Executive Producers Fisher Stevens (TIGER KING, THE COVE) and Akin Omotoso (THE GREEK FREAK, a forthcoming feature film about Nigerian-Greek NBA Champion and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo), Ujiri will help tell the stories of the many fascinating cultures, characters, and personalities across Africa in the context of this inspiring new basketball league, which aspires to transform the professional sports ecosystem throughout the African continent.

The landmark documentary series will follow the stories of the players, coaches, and teams from across Africa as they prepare for and compete in the first BAL season.  This powerful series will spotlight the momentum and ambition behind the pan-African basketball league and the individuals who have worked tirelessly to change the landscape of sports on the continent through this historic initiative

Ujiri has been involved with the NBA in Africa for nearly two decades and has been instrumentally involved in its Basketball Without Borders (BWB) program.  Last May, the NBA launched NBA Africa as a new, standalone entity that conducts the league’s business in Africa, including the BAL.  Strategic investors in NBA Africa include Nigerian businessmen Babatunde “Tunde” Folawiyo and Tope Lawani, and former NBA players, including Dikembe Mutombo, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Junior Bridgeman.  In July, former President Barack Obama joined NBA Africa as a strategic partner.

Ujiri grew up in Zaria, Nigeria, where his love of the game brought him to college in the United States, and when his playing career was complete, his awe-inspiring career off-court began.  Having joined the backroom staff for the Toronto Raptors in 2008, Ujiri subsequently became General Manager and President of the Denver Nuggets, where he was named 2012/13 NBA Executive of the Year.  He re-joined the Toronto Raptors in 2014 as President.  Six years later the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA title in franchise history.

In addition, BAFTA and EMMY award winning editor Andy Worboys has joined the project as lead editor, along with archive producer Paul Bell (SENNA, AMY, DIEGO MARADONA).

Executive Producer, Masai Ujiri, said: “The very first time I was introduced to this project, I knew that I had to be a part of it.  As a young boy, I could have never imagined a professional basketball league, with opportunities for Africans both on and off the court, in my own backyard.  The inaugural season of the Basketball Africa League marked a special event in the history of sports in Africa and I’m honoured to help showcase the unique journey that has brought us to this moment in time.” 

Executive Producer, Richard Brown, said: “In the early stages of putting this series together we met Masai, and it was immediately apparent that he would be the ideal partner on this project.  Going from young player in Nigeria to an inspirational leader in the NBA and a visionary architect of the future of sports in Africa he embodies the aspirations behind the story we are telling.  We’re thrilled that he has come on board; his knowledge, ideas and insights are invaluable.”

The BAL, a partnership between the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), marks the NBA’s first collaboration to operate a league outside of North America.  The first BAL Finals was held on Sunday, May 30, where Zamalek were crowned champions.

Housed at Fremantle and made exclusively in partnership with the BAL, the documentary series forms part of Fremantle’s exclusive multiyear deal with Brown’s production company, Passenger.

Below are the 12 club teams from 12 African countries that competed in the inaugural BAL season:

*Champion from national league that earned representation in the inaugural BAL season **Secured participation in the inaugural BAL season through a BAL qualifying tournament 



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