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What does the NBA Abu Dhabi games 2023 mean for the future of Basketball in the UAE?

Mon 02 Oct 2023    
| 3 min read

Abu Dhabi: For the second time in as many years, the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi will host the NBA UAE Games as the Dallas Mavericks take on the Minnesota Timberwolves, with the sport of basketball continuing to skyrocket in the region.

In light of UAE-backed football club Manchester City securing their inaugural UEFA Champions League this year, Formula 1 concluding their season with the Abu Dhabi Grandprix until 2030 and the UFC gearing up for a Lightweight Championship bout next month at the Etihad Arena, the UAE continues to reaffirm as a global leader in both event hosting and sports investment.

Amidst this backdrop of sporting excellence, basketball is now emerging as the next contender for the spotlight in the UAE’s thriving sports landscape.


As previously mentioned, the NBA visits Abu Dhabi for the second time this October with the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves facing in a pre-season friendly at the Etihad Arena accompanied by a selection of other eye-catching fan experiences.

In Case You Missed It: Everything you need to know about the upcoming NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2023

On the whole, the NBA runs just three ‘global games’ per calendar year with all three strategically hosted in different continents. Paris represents Europe when the NBA arrives in the region, Mexico City takes center stage in North America, and Abu Dhabi is chosen to host the games when they visit Asia despite China’s immense love for the NBA.

Highlighting the significance of selecting the right locations for these games, Andreas Zagklis, the Secretary-General of FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, emphasized, ‘It is our mission to make basketball the most popular sports community in the world, We cannot do that unless we take our flagship event closer to our fans, and closer also to people who are very eager to watch the top players in the world and become core basketball fans.’

The future

With Abu Dhabi constantly demonstrating its capabilities of hosting world-class events, it was only natural that one of the West’s biggest sports was next in line. The welcoming of the NBA UAE Games, as part of a multi-year partnership between the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) and the NBA, is just the start.

Following the initial announcement of the partnership the Chairman at the DCT, HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak spoke about the UAE’s position as a world leader in sports and outlined the emirate’s future plans: ‘Today’s announcement further demonstrates the emirate’s position as a top-tier home for global sports and for attracting the very best talent. As Abu Dhabi is committed to further developing as a dynamic global destination, adding the NBA to our impressive year-round portfolio of sports and entertainment events only reinforces the UAE capital’s standing as a center of sporting excellence. We look forward to the NBA playing an integral role in developing young talent and healthy lifestyles at the grassroots level – the heart of the UAE’s strategy, which places great emphasis on empowering youth and building a sustainable future for the nation and future generations.’

Additionally, Chief Operating Officer of the NBA, Mark Tatum, also expressed his sentiments, stating, “Abu Dhabi is a vibrant multicultural hub with a demonstrated track record of hosting world-class sporting events, and this partnership will not only bring the live NBA and NBA 2K League experience to fans in the Middle East,” and highlighted how it “will also create opportunities for boys and girls to learn the fundamentals and core values of the game through a variety of grassroots programming and fan events.”

When it comes to nurturing the grassroots level of the sport, the ADQ, presenting partners of the 2023 edition of the games, have also made the commitment to both host and support the NBA’s grassroots basketball programs in the UAE. The programs include events such as the Jr. NBA Abu Dhabi League and NBA youth basketball camps over the summer months. 

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