Dubai on the radar for hosting an NBA game

Jay Asser 20:57 25/04/2017
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New heights: Indiana and Denver played at London's O2 Arena this January.

Dubai could host an NBA game within two to three years as part of the league’s Global Games series, according to NBA senior vice president and managing director of Europe, Middle East and Africa.

While the NBA has travelled to 20 different countries as part of Global Games since the first overseas contest back in 1978, the MENA region has yet to feature one.

That could change in the coming years with Dubai specifically singled out as a potential destination for either a preseason or regular season game.

“It would be great to do that in the next two or three years,” Morel said at a media gathering on Tuesday. “In terms of our calendar it’s pretty compact, but we’re looking at pre-season, in October.”

One of the biggest hurdles standing in the way of bringing an NBA game to the UAE is a suitable venue.

While Morel acknowledged Hamdan Sports Complex and its history of hosting basketball, most notably the FIBA Under-17 World Championships in 2014, he believes the arena would need some altering to truly fit the mould.

Instead, a potential landing spot could be one that hasn’t even been fully constructed yet.

“We are actively looking at the opportunities,” Morel said. “We do need some arena standards. There’s a lot of ongoing projects, so we’re carefully monitoring the situation to be able to do that in the near future.

“I think It’s something where basketball belongs, rather than giving it a size restriction. We can be flexible. The NBA is beyond basketball, it’s a show. You’d want to do a game justice and make sure for one night, the people from the region can actually experience what an NBA game is. So we want to make sure we’ve got somewhat the capability to reproduce it.”

Though basketball may not be the most popular sport in the UAE, Morel believes the potential in the region extends beyond the game.

“There’s a tremendous appetite for the NBA here,” he said. “Obviously there’s a sports angle, there are global sports icons, but the NBA entertainment is a type of entertainment that will resonate well in the region. Especially bringing something that’s never been done before will attract a lot of interest.”

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