Dubai: The countdown is on for local basketball stars as they prepare to face off for a chance to represent the UAE on the global stage. Following weeks of qualifiers across the Emirates, the Red Bull Half Court UAE final will bring together the best streetballers to compete at Satwa Park, Dubai on Saturday, 3 June with a place in the global finals at stake.
Red Bull Half Court is a 3v3 streetball tournament which has gathered electrifying talents from over 30 countries, all vying for the grand prize at the finals in Serbia this September.
In the UAE the event has grown in partnership with property developer Arada, bringing the thrilling blend of streetball, music, fashion, and street art to local communities, under the patronage of Dubai Sports Council. For the upcoming final, the Satwa Park court is set to be revitalised, leaving a legacy for the area in collaboration with Dubai Municipality.
Egyptian basketball superstar Nadine Selaawi is a global ambassador for Red Bull Half Court; the Al Ahly Basketball and Egyptian national team star is a record-breaker at college level in the USA.
Following last year’s final in her native Cairo, she believes players from the Emirates could have what it takes in a format which showcases different skills compared to the traditional format, “Last year the UAE team showed up big. I believe this time around, based on what I’ve seen from the competition there, they might have a fair chance of winning it all.”
“3x3 is an intimate game, an individual team game, and you get to express yourself and your skills more than you might in a regular basketball game,” Selaawi added.
Indeed, the format of the event is something which many basketball fans love about the competition and something which could also favour the eventual winner of the UAE final.
Ehab Amin is the male ambassador for Red Bull Half Court, the Al Ahly and Egyptian national team hero also had an excellent college career in the United States. Speaking on the competition he said, “Half Court is such a dynamic format, it’s faster with a short shot clock, every player has to do more and there’s less space so you need a team of people who can all pass, dribble, dunk – there can be no weakness!”
He added, “All the teams are close with the knockouts often decided by 2 or 3 points, it could be anyone’s game.”
Ehab’s thoughts are echoed another of the Middle East’s biggest basketball stars, Wael Arakji. The Lebanese player most recently led his country to the finals of the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup, earning the MVP award for the tournament.
Arakji says the event comes at a golden time for basketball in the region, “Enthusiasm and hunger for the sport has never been at this level. Arab countries have been very present and reaching top positions. I’ve played in teams in Tunisia, Qatar, Kuwait and I’m seeing the quality of competition in the UAE, the support for the game and the excitement with the fans is extremely strong.”
Speaking on the event in Dubai, Arakji expects more to come from UAE talent, “I took part in last year’s exhibition game in the Red Bull Half Court UAE Final in Dubai, and it was great to be there and watch the games that went on. This year will be even more skilful as they know the format and I’m really looking forward to witnessing it.”
The Red Bull Half Court UAE final takes place on 3 June in Satwa, Dubai with the winners going on to the global finals in Serbia in September.