Barack Obama, known for his hardcourt prowess, has now become a strategic partner with NBA Africa.
The league announced Tuesday (July 27) that the 44th president is partnering with NBA Africa through his foundation. According to the NBA, the partnership will “help advance the league’s social responsibility efforts across the continent,” PEOPLE reports.
Obama’s foundation will be involved in programs including Basketball Without Borders Africa, Jr. NBA, and NBA Academy Africa, as well as several social responsibility initiatives aimed at improving the livelihoods of African youth and families, according to the NBA’s announcement.
The NBA formed NBA Africa, operating partly out of the league’s African headquarters in Johannesburg, which opened in 2010. NBA Africa conducts the league’s business in Africa, including the Basketball Africa League (BAL), which held its inaugural season in May featuring teams from 12 African countries.
In a video message announcing the partnership, posted on Twitter, Obama explained why he’s chosen to partner with the NBA, focusing specifically on initiatives in Africa that “promote opportunity, wellness, equality, and empowerment.”
“Africa has the highest percentage of youth population in the world, and this new generation is poised to create positive transformative change. 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 said.”
Earlier in the video message, Obama expanded on his love of the game. “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. 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 also said that the game “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 said.
Obama concluded the video by sharing a story about opening a basketball court in the village where his father grew up on a recent trip to Kenya.
“It was clear to all of us that Africans are poised to show the world that they’ve got game. So, I am proud to join the team and NBA Africa as this initiative is taking off,” he said.