jr nba winners
Winners of the girls and boys titles along with legends at the end of the second Junior NBA Abu Dhabi League. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: It was a day to remember for the young players on the final day of the second Junior NBA Abu Dhabi League as they were able to showcase their skills to two NBA legends at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus last weekend.

It was a double delight for Cranleigh School, American Community School (ACS) and Australian School of Abu Dhabi, who won the girls’, boys’ league A and boys’ league B titles, respectively. After the finals, 11-time NBA All-Star Allen Iverson and two-time WNBA champion Lisa Leslie presented the awards during the closing ceremony and interacted with the young players.

Great sporting event

American legend Iverson expressed his happiness at being in Abu Dhabi and said: “We did not feel much of any difference between the stadiums and the atmosphere here and in the United States, but rather we felt that everyone wanted to serve the guests to make this great sporting event a success.”

Lisa Leslie Q&A Session w_ Kids-1678967536425
11-time NBA All-Star Allen Iverson and two-time WNBA champion Lisa Leslie interracting with the young players. Image Credit: Supplied

Positive impact

Leslie, an eight-time WNBA All-Star across 11 seasons in the league, a three-time WNBA MVP, a four-time Olympic gold medallist, said: “this great celebration was the result of careful planning and left a great positive impact on the hearts of all participants, and it reflects the progress and development witnessed by the UAE in organising important sporting events. We were also pleased to have a large number of European and Asian expatriates and Americans residing here in the Emirates.”

Since its inception in Abu Dhabi, the Jr. NBA Abu Dhabi League has grown from being a 30-team event in its inaugural season in March 2022 to 60 teams this season. The programme is part of a groundbreaking multi-year partnership between the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) that saw Abu Dhabi host the first-ever preseason NBA games in the Arabian Gulf in October 2022.

Grassroots level

The Jr. NBA is the league’s global youth basketball programme for boys and girls, teaching the fundamental skills and core values of the game — teamwork, respect, determination and community — at the grassroots level in an effort to help grow and improve the youth basketball experience for players, coaches and parents. It aims to promote the values of the game and encourage youth to lead an active and healthy lifestyle through participation in sport.

— Ali AlHammadi is an intern with Gulf News