Photo: Screen shot of ESPN+
  /  05.16.2021

Before J. Cole played one minute in the Basketball Africa League’s (BAL) inaugural game, he was already considered to be the MVP of the league in the eyes of his fans. 

On Sunday (May 16), Cole made his professional basketball debut as his Rwanda Patriots played against Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers at Kigali Arena in Rwanda. 

The 36-year-old St. John’s University graduate scored his first points with just over 30 seconds to go in the first quarter. Cole was there to snatch a rebound off a missed layup attempt and put the ball in the basket to bring the Rivers Hoopers lead down to three. 

In the second quarter, Cole scored his third point on a technical free throw. He finished the game with 3 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 17 minutes. The Patriots defeated the Rivers Hoopers 83-60.

The Patriots’ scrappy defense made all the difference. The Rivers Hoopers turned the ball over 20 times and weren’t able to contest their opponents strong second quarter, in which they were outscored 26-16. Patriots’ power forward Brandon Costner led all scorers with 20 points and center Prince Ibeh contributed 11 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocked shots in the winning effort. Nigeria was led by Taren Sullen who scored 15 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. 

On Twitter, Cole’s manager and Dreamville co-founder Ibrahim Hamad seemed proud to see his artist following his dreams. “Damn, I just watched my boy play a professional basketball game on TV. Crazy,” he wrote.‍

The BAL will consist of a 26-game tournament with 12 teams. The regular season will conclude on May 23 and the playoffs start two days later on May 25. The championship game will take place on May 30. Up next, Cole and the Patriots will take on Madagascar’s GNBC Tuesday (May 18) at 8 p.m. ET. 

Check out all of J. Cole’s hoop highlights below: 


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