Bah-Pna Dahane Created The Quai54, Paris Streetball Tournament (Part 1)
by Kaya Omodele
Don't get it twisted and damn what you heard: Bah-Pna Dahane
is the originator, the fire-blazing creator of Quai54, Paris, France's
super-eminent street basketball tournament. Period. Born in Chad, Bah-Pna grew
up in Lyon, France balling on various courts - swinging tennis racquets and
shooting hoops. His love for sports would eventually lead him to earn a Masters
degree in International Business and Marketing (he minored in Black Studies and
Political Science) from Portland State University in Oregon in 1999. Education
prepared Bah-Pna for the corporate sports marketing world and he's travelled
extensively; but no matter where in the world his ventures take him, this
brother is constantly sounding the Abeng, voicing out against racism wherever
he finds it. Armed with the knowledge and spirit of Marcus Garvey, the brother
reaches out regularly to uplift the consciousness of brothers and sisters
around the Black (African) Diaspora. Such was the case when he envisioned
"France's Racism is different than the United States';
France's racism is more subtle...like a gas you can't smell but will kill you
slowly from the inside."~ Bah-Pna
Being naturally athletic, at eleven years old Bah-Pna was
selected as one of Lyon's best, budding tennis players and was awarded
membership at an exclusive tennis club. That same year, he discovered the works
of Nelson Mandela and also met French Open Champion Yannick Noah; both made big
impressions on the Youth.
"Being the only black kid at the tennis club, I will
never forget the special attention Yannick Noah gave me. That day in 1986, when
he left us he waved good-bye to everyone, except me. He shook my hand, entered
his car and winked at me before leaving."
This experience sowed the seed of giving back to his
community that would later blossom beautifully in Bah-Pna's life.
Not long after, Bah-Pna developed a burning passion for
basketball, which opened him to politically-conscious hip-hop and in turn,
exposed him to film-maker Spike Lee's work, for which he has deep, long-lasting
respect. Bah-Pna insists that after seeing Do The Right Thing, one can't help
but be politically conscious.
As a young man in France, he promptly scrutinized any
corporate staff he found short on black employees and executives. The brother
blatantly refused to work for or support those companies where he found little
or no blacks in the work force.
"I felt the same way as Bugging Out in Do The Right
Thing. Where are black people besides the security guards?...
"You feel outraged when you are regularly referred [to]
as 'black, but not like other blacks.' In France that statement means you are a
Like many black, inner-city youth, Bah-Pna spent long hours
practicing on basketball courts with dreams of making it to the NBA. It was
during one of these sessions in 1995, the very day he realized his dream of
playing in the League was falling short, that he linked up with Philippe Morin.
The Nike executive was promoting the Nike Raid Outdoor Tournament, which
duplicated the theme of Spike Lee's Urban Jungle sneaker commercial. Since
Bah-Pna had an already growing admiration for Spike, he was naturally drawn to
Bah-Pna balling with Tim Hardaway
"I teamed up with Nike France only because the Nike
Raid Outdoor Tournament was inspired by Spike Lee's Urban Jungle courtfeaturing Tim Hardaway...
"...most importantly for many of us who grew up with
the knowledge of Marcus Garvey, we were proud that the pan-African [flag]
colors were showing up on the Raid Outdoor sneakers. Growing up with conscious
rap music, we blacks from the African Diaspora living in Francehad a voice and we were able to back it up
with the history lessons coming from rap artists like Public Enemy...In most
schools in France, we weren't taught about our real history, so those conscious
rap artists influenced us to go to the libraries in order to build and
strengthen our pride as human beings and people of black origin."
Working in sports marketing with Nike France led to future
projects such as the Nike Euro Camp where Bah-Pna worked under the legendary
Hall of Fame basketball coach George Raveling in 1997. By the time the Nike
Battleground Tournament was up and running in 2002, Bah-Pna had graduated from
Portland State and was Nike France's Basketball Marketing Manager, handling all
aspects of business and marketing concerning basketball; he'd already worked
with Coca-Cola France as a sports marketing consultant/liaison during the FIFA
World Cup '98 in France; he'd created, coordinated and promoted a charity event
called SLAM ATTITUDE from which proceeds were contributed to funding Dikembe
Mutombo's hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo. All these gigs gave
Bah-Pna the necessary experience and contacts, and whetted his appetite, to
birth his very own tournament.
The Quai54, Paris: The Mission
"Do not follow in the footsteps of the wise; seek what
they sought."~ Osho
For this natural-born activist and socially-conscious
brother, creating the basketball tournament that would one day be France's
biggest street ball showcase was a social vision as complex as piecing together
a 1000-piece, jigsaw puzzle.
"What many may have seen as a simple basketball
tournament was for me a real political statement...My goal was to engineer an
event created by blacks and operated by blacks, so we could have a real, black
men-made event without begging others to do it for us."
It took many months of brainstorming; he knew he wanted this
tournament to be black-owned but had no theme yet in mind. Then one day in
2002, while driving through Levallois with Philippe Morin (the now former Nike
executive) to meet with the Paris basketball team, they passed a basketball
court that became the catalyst for Bah-Pna's epiphany.
"My first time in NY was in 1995 when I won an award to
go film my amateur documentary [about] the impact of street basketball in the
U.S.A. When we drove past this location in Levallois, it reminded me of New
The street basketball-theme light flicked on. Bright.
"I drove back to the same playground the next day and
started taking pictures. I sat down and I laid out all my inspiration. I started
drawing certain logos and promised myself this tournament would be a success
the day Jordan Brand sponsors it."
Bah-Pna's major concern was that the tournament had to be
black-people oriented; that it must be a beacon for self-reliance of young,
black men in France, to "show the white establishment of sports authority
that we were more than just sneaker consumers with a bling-bling
Teach the Youth, Bahps...Talk to them!
With his objectives loaded in his mind, Bah-Pna took careful
aim of his goal. He sought out the elders in his business and personal network
and soaked in the wisdom they imparted upon him.
Ralph "Big Poppa" Green delivered an email during
a meeting at Nike Headquarters in the Netherlands. "Watch out for
Africa," the big man said, then shared stories about NBA great Hakeem
Olajuwon struggling to complete projects in Nigeria.
Howard White and Kevin "The Katalyst" Carrol both
reminded young Bah-Pna to give back to the community. Always!
When Bah-Pna travelled once again to NYC, Rucker Park
Tournament's Gregory Marius kicked knowledge, telling him, "Stay true to
yourself and they will follow!"
"Lead them from the back; let others believe they are
in front."~ Nelson Mandela
From its inception, every detail of Quai54, Paris was a result
of Bah-Pna's diligence and strategic planning. He designed down to the name
itself. Each component was carefully considered, then laid and stitched with
deliberate purpose and meaning. For example, the name "Quai54"
itself: Africa consisted of 54 independent countries; Quai means pier or port.
"As many know, during the Second World War, the capital of France was in
Africa for some time. Black soldiers came from all ports to defend France from
the tyranny of Nazism."
Bah-Pna kept tight focus on his mission and goal when he
sought initial sponsorship. In his own words, he wanted to make sure the first
sponsorship money would come from black-owned companies, and the remainder by
anyone who believed in the cause of Black excellence. He was certain that if he
gathered enough sponsorship money, he'd still be able to run the tournament if
he fell short of landing a major brand's support.
Once Bah-Pna had gathered everything he needed, he
searchedfor someone to run the
tournament - he needed a face, a front man. Eventually, he reached out to
Philippe Saint and Jackie Blangonnet, who were both running the
"Basketball en liberty" program.
"Philippe Saint was working for the French Basketball
Federation. He was dealing with street basketball and was running this open gym
in Paris' 13th district where everyone can go and play every day. I contacted
him and told him clearly that I was looking for a young African man who loves
basketball and hip-hop so he can be [my] front man."
Philippe Saint got back to Bah-Pna with the name of a player
who was connected with hip-hop culture, adding that he could swing by the Porte
de Choisy at the Hall Carpentier anytime after 6pm for a linkup introduction.
That's how Bah-Pna met Hammadoun Sidibe, the man who became
the front man of Quai54, Paris.
"At the time I was working on the Nike Battleground
[tournament] with Tony Parker and for the Nike account, so I couldn't run two
events at the same time. When Mr. Saint introduced me to a fellow African
[Sidibe], I explained to him that he would be the front man and all he had to
do was connect the dots, the hip-hop environment and the basketball one and
just carry the tournament as if it was his. All the marketing mix and
connections with the officials and the brand was me, because my job at Nike
opened many doors...
"It was important to me that black people take their
destiny in hand even if it is a tournament."
"Hypocrites and parasites/will come up and take a
bite/and if your night should turn to day/a lot of people would run
away..."~Bob Marley; Who The Cap Fits
History is a carousel; there is nothing new under the sun.
As was the case with Marcus Garvey's UNIA, some people only care about what
they can get from a situation and so one must be careful about those he invites
to his table. Like Garvey, Bah-Pna made the grave mistake of bringing the
wrong, so-called African brother into his organization and giving this
Judas-thief access. (Editor's Note: This man was not Hammadoun Sidibe; Bah-Pna
has not revealed the name of this person to The Abeng.)
When asked why he no longer is part of a tournament he bled,
sweated and shed tears over, why he didn't claim it, Bah-Pna responded.
"I had to take responsibility because the person I
chose as the Chief Financial Officer ran away with the money. I had no choice
than to take responsibility for the loss...
"I should have told the bank that we needed two
signatures on the checks for all expenses. I didn't take care of that, so when
cash from the sponsors came in, he took most of it and went back to the
Motherland with his honey. Life happens, we live and learn...
"I couldn't fight my own black brothers...I decided not
to argue and gave the ones I considered co-founders all of it. It was important
to have this kind of reaction because we were all interdependent. I was the
breadwinner at first, but without their input and connections, we wouldn't have
been able to maintain the tournament all these years."
And so, without grudge or vindictive feelings, Bah-Pna
relinquished his rights to Quai54.
Bah-Pna reiterates that his purpose in creating Quai54 was
to show young black men in France, who believed in "the illusion of
inclusion", that they could stand on their own two feet, deliver and be
"accepted at our real value". He is adamant about the need for black
people to hold ourselves in high esteem and value ourselves as more than
consumers; that we see ourselves as creators, entrepreneurs, rulers of our own
"I wanted this tournament to create hope, so the black
kids in France would find inspiration to become general managers, film makers
or think in terms of becoming owners...
"Many blacks in France still have a sneaker mentality.
You are more praised for the sneaker you have than the books. You are likely to
find their room full of sneakers but no library with books."