Dubai is often referred to as a concrete jungle but while parks and greenery are in short supply within the metropolitan city, Jumeirah Lakes Towers seems to strike a unique balance at the heart of it.
Numerous high-rise towers skirt the edges of three artificial lakes, lending a scenic element to the 26 clusters. Yet, amid the commercial occupancies and various restaurants, lives a vibrant community and a 55,000 metre park features as a hub for leisure and activity.
Nestled in the corner of this generous green patch – in Cluster O – is a basketball court that’s becoming increasingly popular for its standard and location.
That’s why it made for the perfect venue on Friday when Nike partnered with Concepts for a 3v3 basketball tournament. The free event also marked Concepts’ three-year anniversary in Dubai and featured 12 pre-registered teams recruited by Ball Above All alongside a Nike team with a focus on bringing the basketball community together. A cash prize was set at Dh10,000 for the winners.
“The whole idea was to give back to the community by doing this event around basketball,” Jean Rached, the general manager of Concepts, said.
“It’s our three-year anniversary of Concepts in Dubai. So we’re celebrating by doing the basketball challenge in partnership with Nike.”
“They’re very into basketball as are we. We had the Kyrie 5 Oreo challenge with the half-court shot as well.”
The challenge was open to spectators, too, who had the opportunity to win a pair of brand new Nike Kyrie 5 Oreo shoes by making a shot from the half-court line.
To mark the occasion Nike in partnership with DMCC painted the JLT court which made quite an impression on the players given the striking new design.
Seraphin Mboma has frequented the local basketball circuit for a number of years. At 22, the Congolese harbours ambitions of playing college ball in the United States before going pro. As far as he’s concerned, the JLT court ranks highly in Dubai.
“It’s among the top three,” he said.
Basketball in Dubai is one of the more popular sports but it’s still on the up. It’s no surprise then that the community is a closely knit one. “Right now it’s rising,” Mboma said.
“Now, there’s awareness and basketball is taken more seriously so there are more participants.
“I feel like it brings a lot of people together. Everyone I know here is through playing basketball or something that’s basketball related.”
Zoe Wensink, 16, only moved to Dubai last September from France and speaks of the role basketball played in helping her get settled.
“Basketball has been a big part of my life even before Dubai so when I got here it was the main thing to find somewhere to play. It was pretty easy honestly, as soon as I found one team, it all came together,” she said.
“When I got here, I thought it’s not so good, but with events like this I find it’s getting a lot of importance.”
Basketball is growing in prominence in the UAE and as captain of the Jordanian women’s team, Rasha Abdo can attest to that.
“I definitely see big potential for basketball to grow in the UAE,” said Abdo, who was crowned women’s MVP after guiding her team to a tournament triumph. “I remember when I first moved to Dubai five years ago, the number of teams participating in any tournament or league wouldn’t be more than five.
“Now, you see more than 12 teams in different categories, different age groups and genders. This is an indication of how fast the sport is growing.”
The Nike event, through the eyes of a professional, is just the sort of thing that can help develop the game in the region and facilitate the growth of the community.
“Tournaments similar to this definitely help in developing the sport because you get exposed to so many good players – male and female – and the more you play, the more you improve,” Abdo explains.
“I appreciate these kinds of events as they are fun. You make friends and you grow this community while growing as a player at the same time.”
The event was a vibrant affair that hosted plenty of lounging space in front of the court. Picnic tables and inflatable sofas made for a comfortable setting for spectators while food stalls were also set up along with a game stall featuring three hoops.
Much of that, including the organisation of the tournament itself, was achieved with the help of Ball Above All.
By getting involved with them, 25-year-old Narimene Rouavah quickly began to feel at home in Dubai.
“In the beginning it was a bit difficult. I was not aware that we have such leagues and we can participate,” the Algerian said about her move to Dubai three years ago.
“I started playing in Ball Above All and I’ve been participating in a lot of events like this one since.”
Narimene also touched on the JLT basketball court itself and offered some insight on why it’s gradually becoming iconic among the sport’s local community.
“This court is quite special. I like the fact that Kobe [Bryant] has kind of signed here. We have his fingerprints here which is amazing,” she said, referring to the tribute to the LA Lakers legend on the east side of the court.
The new paint job has only improved the venue that already had great appeal and will no doubt be increasingly frequented by basketball enthusiasts.
“I love what they did with the court. I played on it before it was painted and refurbished. I will definitely come and play here [again].”
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