The inspiring reach of Astou Ndour-Fall: How the basketball star is giving back

From clinching an Olympic silver medal to winning an WNBA championship, basketball has transformed the life of the Senegalese-Spanish centre. Now she's using her sport to change the lives of others.

By Chloe Merrell | Created 5 September 2022
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Astou Ndour-Fall understands better than most how sport can alter the course of your life.

Born and raised in Dakar, Senegal, Ndour-Fall left her home and family at just 14 to pursue basketball in Spain’s Canary Islands.

It was a gamble for one so young but underwritten by the athletic promise she was already beginning to show.

In 2011, Ndour-Fall received Spanish citizenship which opened the door for her to represent the country on an international level.

Standing at 1.96m-tall and with the on-court prowess to match, the teen phenom quickly gained traction on the world stage.

She was an integral part of the Spanish team that clinched silver 2011 FIBA U19 World Cup where she just shy of averaging a double-double across the tournament. In 2013 she led the country to an historic three-peat at the U20 European Championships. It prompted FIBA Europe named her the 2013 Young Women’s Player of the Year.

A year after Ndour-Fall's stock went sky-high.

After winning silver at the FIBA Europe U20 Championships she was drafted by the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) side San Antonio Stars (now Las Vegas Aces) with the 16th overall pick in the 2014 Draft.

With the door to the US open, Ndour-Fall competed in the 2014 and 2016 seasons for San Antonio before being traded to the Chicago Sky in 2017. In 2020 the Sky then traded her to the Dallas Wings, only for them to waive her. The Spaniard then returned to Chicago in 2021 to play her role in lifting them to the WNBA Championship.

In between her stints in the WNBA, Ndour-Fall also competed in both the EuroLeague and EuroCup for franchises across Europe.

Since 2014, she has competed with 11 teams across five countries as well as collecting four more international medals for Spain: including gold at EuroBasket 2019.

But perhaps her crowning moment was in 2016 when a late injury to Spain’s other naturalised player, Sancho Lyttle, enabled Ndour-Fall to go with Spain to Rio 2016.

There she would help her country medal for the first time at an Olympic Games with the bonus of adding another precious piece of silverware to her already impressive collection.

Astou Ndour-Fall: Creating opportunities for future generations

With so much of the world seen and travelled, and with so much achieved, it would be easy for 28-year-old Ndour-Fall to rest on her laurels.

But rather than sitting content with her successes, the 2021 WNBA Champion has moved to make the sport that has already transformed her life so much more accessible to others.

In December 2019, the Olympic medallist launched the ‘Astou Ndour Association AN45’ to help realise her ambition of giving children in her native Senegal opportunities to play basketball and to also understand the importance of academics and health.

“I always said in my head that I had to help children,” Ndour-Fall told the FIBA Foundation. “So that’s what I do now every time I go back home, because at their age I was not in a comfortable situation. It was very difficult and even more so for a girl.

“Here [in Senegal] when a girl plays sports there is a tendency to be told that sport is for boys and the same for studies. You have to stay at home, cook and be a housewife.

“That’s the past, and we want to show that basketball can change a girl’s life. It’s going to give them more power, more responsibility so that they can be role models for the next generation.”

Back in July, Ndour-Fall, who took a sabbatical from the 2022 WNBA season, assisted her Association in holding its first event. The three-day-long basketball camp hosted 60 participants, of which 35 were girls.

Further honouring Ndour-Fall's commitment to inclusivity in sport, wheelchair basketball players also participated in the camp.

“Unfortunately, wheelchair players are never invited to camps, or nobody follows their championship even though they are professionals. So, I also wanted to show that they are one of us,” Ndour-Fall continued to FIBA Foundation.

Off the back of the success of the first camp, the reigning MVP of FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2019 is already turning her mind to what else she can do next:

"We are already thinking about the next Astou Ndour basketball camp," she wrote on her social media after the first concluded, underlining how her commitment to the next generation is just getting started.

GO OLYMPIC. GET ALL THIS.

Free live sport events. Unlimited access to series. Unrivalled Olympic news & highlights.