The NBA is enjoying a renaissance in the Middle East as a new generation of fans tune in the action and are also flying to the US for live games.
At the heart of the growth is the fact more NBA content is available in the region – a move started by the organisation in 2010.
But New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Antony, speaking to Sport360, also believes an increase in overseas talent is key.
“It’s great that we have fans from the Middle East all over the world watching on TV and then coming to see us,” he said.
“New York is a fantastic city to both live in and visit and if people are making the Knicks part of a trip then it is up to everyone involved here to entertain them and have them coming back for more in the future.
“What I also see is more players from overseas are coming in and making a name for themselves – that gives fans around the world more reasons to follow basketball here.
“It’s great for the game and the more personalities we have the better. I think the sport is in great shape with a bright future and lots of young, talented players.”
A prime example of new overseas talent is Kristaps Porzingis, a rookie sensation from Latvia and a team-mate of Anthony at the Knicks.
“I try to help him as much as I can which is important as it is not easy to adjust to life in the NBA straight away,” added Anthony.
Basketball fans in the Middle East are often in attendance at games in the US – particularly those based in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Jeddah.
At a recent Knicks victory over Orlando Magic, a group of 13 from the UAE were present.
In addition to the on-court action they were treated to an amazing live music performance at half-time and celebrity appearances by Michael J Fox and Jude Law.
“NBA TV has grown massively in the Middle East recently and we all chat on the fan sites whenever we can,” said Dubai-based fan Ismail Ghalib, who was at the game.
“With the cost of flying to the States we cannot get to games a lot but a lot of us try at least once a season and in the big cities like New York you can combine it with a holiday.
“In the days of Michael Jordan, basketball was really big in the UAE and I remember the older kids having all the t-shirts and trainers. But then the popularity sort of went down and it is only now that it is back.
“The atmosphere of an NBA game is just amazing – they do so much to entertain when the game is not even being played.”
Interview conducted by Matt Slater
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