Abu Dhabi Games likely to 'continue as a major fixture' on NBA calendar

The basketball association and the Department of Culture and Tourism entered a ground-breaking multi-year partnership to host the first preseason games in the UAE


Ashwani Kumar

Published: Thu 6 Oct 2022, 4:22 PM

Abu Dhabi Games is likely to continue as a major fixture on National Basketball Association (NBA) calendar, a top official revealed.

“We believe it will continue as a major fixture on our calendar. But of course, we want to see how it goes this week,” Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA, told a select group of reporters in Abu Dhabi.

Last November, the NBA and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi entered a ground-breaking multi-year partnership to host the first NBA games in the UAE. Two pre-season NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022, featuring Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks, have drawn fans from nearly 60 countries to the UAE capital. The games on Thursday and Saturday are broadcast throughout the world and available on the NBA app, reaching fans in more than 200 countries and territories.

Silver is thrilled that basketball has continued to grow in the region.

“This has been a long time coming, playing our first game here. Really the history of the NBA in the region traces back probably 100 years to when the missionaries from the US first brought basketball to the Middle East, and it has continued to develop over many years.

"Our broadcasting relationship in the region goes back around 35 years. We have had roughly 25 players so far from the Middle East. We are hoping to inspire some more young boys and girls.”

Silver hoped that the two pre-season games and other initiatives like the Jr NBA leagues and clinics, the first Arabic language social media channel, would make a positive impact.

“Our experience has taught us that as great as media technology and social media is, there’s no substitute for being on the ground. And I think it’s been a couple of years now because of the pandemic where we’ve had the opportunity to really travel like this, certainly internationally. There’s just absolutely no substitute for it – and I think for us it goes well beyond the games themselves.”

Later this month, an e-commerce website will be launched to serve fans in the region.

Silver underlined that the Junior NBA Abu Dhabi League and the ongoing NBA District at Manarat Al Saadiyat presents an “opportunity to touch thousands of people directly”, who in a way then become “mini-ambassadors” of the game.

“As young people those experiences that you have in life stay with you. And that’s why we are very optimistic that these games will have an impact not just in Abu Dhabi but throughout the region.”

Ralph Rivera, managing director, NBA Europe and Middle East, pointed out that Abu Dhabi has developed a culture of hosting international sports events like Formula One, the Special Olympics, the UFC, the Fifa Club World Cup.

“The ability to host high-profile events with strong brands, the infrastructure – not just the arena infrastructure, but the infrastructure in terms of hotels, restaurants – it becomes a destination. It isn’t just about the game, it’s about coming here and experiencing the city. And then also a shared vision and ambition for the impact that these games can have in terms of community youth development – not just here in Abu Dhabi, or in the UAE, but in the region overall,” Rivera said.

Also, NBA has been working with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council to take the Junior NBA into the local schools.

“I think this is one of the big things about the engagement: encouraging exposure and participation. The more that we’re here, the more we inspire that spark for girls to get involved and experience the benefit of playing sports, and particularly team sports. Our objective is to increase the level of awareness and participation and it is only going to spread across other emirates,” Silver added.


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