NBA Africa VP shows how to make the most of opportunity
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Dr. Brian Smith, director of the Colangelo School of Sports Business at Grand Canyon University, talks all the time about bringing quality speakers to campus from all corners of the sports world, but Thursday he truly went global.
As if students needed yet another example of how persistence with a dose of good fortune can lead to a great career, no matter where you’re from, they got a reminder when Amadou Gallo Fall spoke to undergraduates in the morning and master’s candidates later in the day.
Fall is the National Basketball Association’s vice president and managing director for Africa and for the last five years has run the league’s office in Johannesburg, South Africa — one of its 14 offices worldwide. The sport has a global reach, but Fall’s challenge is that soccer has long been the No. 1 sport in Africa.
The native of Senegal told the story of how a Peace Corps volunteer discovered him at a basketball camp and arranged to have him attend the University of the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C., from which he graduated magna cum laude.
“I stumbled into basketball because I’d never had access to the game,” he said.
Then came another break: His team played Georgetown University, whose legendary coach, John Thompson, noticed him bounding all over the court and took him under his wing. “I met unbelievable people,” Fall said.
That led to a job with the Dallas Mavericks as director of player personnel and vice president of international affairs, and here he is today in a key NBA executive position.
His new challenge is quite an undertaking. He said his top goal is to grow the game in Africa by making it more accessible to young people, but he also wants to grow it as a business, cultivate top players, leverage the visibility of the NBA and its players and partner with African and international brands.
But, above all else, “I try to leverage the power of sport to do social good,” he said.
Fall founded the SEED Academy (Sports for Education and Economic Development) in Senegal and has built it into a basketball powerhouse. He said there are approximately 50 schools that play basketball in Africa.
Another key part of his toolbox is Basketball without Borders, the global basketball development and community relations outreach program sponsored by the NBA and FIBA (the International Basketball Federation) that promotes leadership, education, sportsmanship and healthy living with an emphasis on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
In August, Fall was part of the effort that arranged an exhibition game between a team of African players and a team from the rest of the world. The World won 101-97, and Fall wants to make it the first step toward bringing an exhibition between two NBA teams to his continent.
And then there’s his new relationship with GCU. This was his first visit to campus.
“This is one of the reasons why you come to GCU to study sports business — to connect with somebody like Amadou,” Smith said. “We are very much looking forward to strengthening our relationship with NBA Africa as well as getting GCU students involved in future sports business opportunities.”
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.