With its turnout and turn up, the just-concluded Basketball Africa League (BAL) playoffs have exceeded expectations because, even after home side Rwanda Energy Group (REG) was eliminated on the opening night, the BK Arena maintained a high turn up. ALSO READ: Al Ahly crowned BAL 2023 champions Times Sport’s Precious Kirezi explains why basketball lovers regularly came in big numbers. Rwandans had their eggs in more than one basket The average of Rwanda's first-choice in the league is undoubtedly home team REG which was vividly-portrayed by the speed at which the tickets for opening night sold out. However, REG wasn’t the only team on their roster. Quite a number of people had been following the tournament prior to the playoffs in Kigali, and were genuinely rooting for teams other than their own, which would somewhat explain the high turnout after REG was eliminated. Ben Kayihura for example, had been following the tournament virtually in Dakar, and believed Stade Malien and Senegalese powerhouse AS Douanes to be some of the best teams, based on their games. He attended every game they played solely for that reason. “I was sad REG didn’t make it to the quarterfinals but I saw how good Stade Maliens and the AS Douanes from Senegal played and I started rooting for them as well, which is why I attended most of the games this week,” Kayihura told Times Sport. Ticket affordability Kigali does not have a shortage of basketball fans, but what may have kept them from showing up and showing out at the games is ticket pricing, but it was ever an obstacle for those who wanted to watch BAL playoffs. The lowest priced ticket, with seats in the upper bowl was Rwf1,500, followed by tickets with seats in the lower bowl at Rwf12,250, which is well within the range of the working class, and VIP tickets at Rwf41,250. Read Also: BAL announces ticket prices for playoffs in Kigali Celeb-studded BAL show Besides music performances and other entertainment-related activities, a host of celebrities who were in attendance from the beginning of the BAL playoffs till the tournament came to a close on Saturday attracted so many to join them watch the playoffs together inside the same Arena. Academy Award-winning actor, social activist and NBA Africa investor Forest Whitaker; BAL Ambassadors and NBA Africa investors Luol Deng (South Sudan), Joakim Noah (grandfather from Cameroon) and Ian Mahinmi (France; ties to Benin); and New York Knicks President of G League Operations Pops Mensah-Bonsu (Ghana), Ugandan musician Navio, Rwandan-British choreographer Sherrie Silver NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark A Tatum are among top celebrities who jetted in to witness the BAL playoffs from their stands. Other celebrities to have graced the BAL include Somalian Muslim professional basketball player Jamaad Finn, American TV Host Britney Helena, South African Superstar Pearl Thusi and former Paris Saint-Germain Pedro Miguel Pauleta. ALSO READ: Who are the celebrities in Kigali for BAL finals? The diaspora effect The league entertained not only Rwandan citizens, but also residents and delegates from foreign countries, and their basketball allegiance was represented loudly, adamantly and undeniably. Whether it was diaspora residing in Kigali or delegates that were in the city for the league, teams such as Petro de Luanda from Angola, Stade Maliens from Mali and AS Douanes from Senegal had very devoted and invested fans throughout the playoffs. That not only boosted ticket sales but also elevated the aura at the arena, given that the cheers that came in for the above teams could be considered entertaining to some extent. Entertainment Whether or not REG had made it past the quarterfinals, Kigalians would have lined up to watch the games because quite a number of people, including Sheila Agasaro, a 21-year-old business student, were drawn to the games to be entertained. “I don’t usually trust Rwandan teams because they have not excelled to a championship in a while, but I like basketball and I just wanted to watch a good game, which this week had a lot of. The halftime shows were great as well,” says Agasaro. The halftime shows featured the likes of Chriss Eazy, Juno Kizigenza, Kivumbi King, as well Dj Neptune, Pheelz, accompanied by regular sets from DJ Toxxyk and Dj Makeda to mention but a few.