Saleh Mohamed Al Geziry, Director General for Tourism at DCT Abu Dhabi and Ralph Rivera, Managing Director, NBA Europe and Middle East during the NBA pre-season games in Abu Dhabi announcement at the Arabian Travel Market, World Trade Centre, Dubai. Image Credit: Imran Malik / Gulf News

Dubai: The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi and the National Basketball Association announced today that reigning champions Milwaukee Bucks will play two pre-season games against the Atlanta Hawks in the inaugural NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 on October 6 and 8 this year. It will mark the league’s first games in the UAE.

The NBA Abu Dhabi Games is part of a groundbreaking multi-year partnership between DCT Abu Dhabi and the NBA. The partnership has already seen the launch of the first Junior NBA Abu Dhabi League for boys and girls aged between 11-14 from local schools across the capital.

Grow the game

Ralph Rivera, Managing Director, NBA Europe and Middle East spoke to Gulf News from the Arabian Travel Market, at the World Trade Centre about the motives for the NBA coming to Abu Dhabi. “The main reason is to expand and grow the game of basketball but do it in a place that has sheer vision ambition and values and for us Abu Dhabi was the place that lined up both in terms of a great host city for a sporting event but also a sheer vision in terms of how basketball can have a positive impact on the community,” he said.

The two teams that will be coming to Abu Dhabi couldn’t be any bigger and they feature some of the major stars of the game. “You’re talking about the Milwaukee Bucks – the reining NBA champion with Giannis Antetokounmpo who is a two-time MVP and then the Atlanta Hawks who played the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals last year and will have Trae Young who lead the league in total points and assists which hasn’t been done in about 45 years, so in terms of the team themselves, they’re the best and in terms of iconic players it can’t get better,” adds Rivera.

The Milwaukee Bucks will face Atlanta Hawks at the inaugural NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 on October 6 and 8. Image Credit: Imran Malik / Gulf News

NBA player from UAE

Rivera believes plenty can be achieved through this exciting new collaboration and he hopes a future NBA star will be born from the UAE. “First of all we are going to have a great experience - it will NBA week in Abu Dhabi and anyone that comes to that from the UAE or elsewhere will have a great experience . Secondly is the impact that we have on the community – so in addition to these games we have Junior NBA League, we have health clinics, we have other youth clinics, we have social responsibility activities that we have as well so that to me is a more of a long term community positive impact activity. Thirdly at some point in time in the future I would like to say that we have an NBA player from the UAE and that we can point to this collaboration as being the catalyst.”

Rivera definitely feels the capital has all the correct facilities to host such a big event in order to make it a resounding success. “They are world class. If you look at Yas Island in terms of Etihad Arena, it is a world class arena, but then you have everything around it from Warner Brothers World, Ferrari World, The Louvre, The Grand Mosque – it’s an amazing life trip. And then you get some great NBA entertainment with that. It doesn’t get any better than that.”