An NBA pre-season game could be staged in Dubai within two to three years as part of the US basketball league’s regional expansion, according to Ben Morel, NBA managing director and senior vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
NBA Global Games, whether competitive or exhibition matches, are nothing new, but this would be the first to be held in the Mena region.
Speaking at a media gathering on Tuesday, Morel said: “It would be great to do within the next two to three years. In terms of our calendar it’s pretty compact, but we’re looking at pre-season, in October.
“There’s a lot of demand for global games around the world, so let’s first start with one and then go from there.”
Location-wise, he added: “We need an arena. There are a lot of ongoing projects and we are carefully monitoring the situation to hold a game in the near future.”
One option for an existing venue, he said, was the Hamdan Sports Complex on Emirates Road opposite Global Village, which is predominantly a swimming pool but has previously been adapted to stage the FIBA Under-17 World Championships in 2014.
“It requires some adaptation, which has potential hurdles, but it has hosted basketball in the past, so is an obvious option.
“It has to be held somewhere where basketball belongs, there’s no size [capacity] requirement, we can be flexible, but it has to do the game justice and be capable of holding a show beyond just the basketball.”
When pushed on what ongoing projects he was referring to, he replied: “Some are announced and some aren’t. I won’t go into detail. But generally speaking, there is a fast-developing trend around the world for indoor entertainment centres, which hasn’t caught on here yet, but will.
“Every big world city needs one to stage events, and we’d encourage a state-of-the-art basketball facility.”
As well as looking to hold NBA games in the region, Morel said they were also going to launch; Arabic versions of their website and social media channels, NBA stores and grassroots development and corporate social responsibility projects, where past and current stars would make special appearances.
Changing US tip off times to suit the time-zone was also discussed as was enhancing content on all devices to suit the market, including using virtual reality to give viewers the impression that they are sitting courtside.
Morel also wants to hold NBA festivals in local malls and he said one of the reasons basketball could flourish here was because it was an indoor game able to be played year-round, unlike outdoor sports that are only played in winter due to the heat in summer.
The end goal would be to get more players from this region into the NBA to perpetuate local consumption of the product.
“The Middle East has great potential and there is a fast growth here in terms of viewership and social media interaction, which resonates. It would be great to see how much more can be done in various areas to promote an active and healthy lifestyle within indoor settings in the region.
“These are really exciting times and the Middle East is a key area of growth to the NBA.”
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