There is some movement on the global front.
As a response to the failing state of the NBA in its back yard — even amid the success of players such as Chris Paul and Anthony Davis — there has been a move to aggressively promote its international opportunities, including contracts to play in China, as well as opportunities to show on television in non-traditional markets.
So it was no surprise when the NBA announced Thursday that it has signed a deal to play exhibition games in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai on Nov. 14 and 21. The latter game will be televised in about 70 countries, a first for the league.
The United Arab Emirates’ capital and the second-largest city of China (after Beijing) are now official global basketball destinations.
The deal is between the NBA and Emirati co-owners of the Al Ahli Club as well as a group of wealthy investors who have an interest in sport. The investment is being made by an organization called The Mubadala Group, a company of the Abu Dhabi ruling family. The U.S. Ambassador to the UAE has been heavily involved in getting the bid approved.
“We are excited to launch our 2018 Global Games with a major event in Abu Dhabi,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “This is yet another example of the NBA’s global leadership in building a wide global footprint, and we hope it sends a strong message to fans all over the world that basketball is a global sport that is coming to cities all over the world.
“Middle East basketball fans have been clamoring for NBA games for some time and this new partnership with the Mubadala Group will serve as a turning point for our fans in the region.”
For the U.S. players, the proposal creates some unique possibilities.
Longtime Knicks forward David Lee, who was born in California and spent most of his pro career in the Bay Area, said he was “happy” to hear the news and the chance to play.
“It’s something I’ve been hearing about in terms of the changes,” Lee said. “The Emirati culture there is not totally the same as it is in America. That’s what I think is the cool thing about it. … I’ve always been a big fan of the NBA and would really like to get a chance to play some ball over there, and they also play a similar style of basketball, which is definitely something that I would like to be a part of.”
As for what awaits players during the games, “it depends on how it breaks down,” he said. “I know in the NBA they are playing as much as possible, but when I’m over there, they have a lot of they play against each other. They may not play a lot of games — they don’t play many games over there. I guess we will see how it works out.
“In the States, it’s a little more organized, but it is something that I don’t think I’ve ever done before and am trying to embrace.”
As for the Chinese contingent in the U.S. delegation to the Olympics in Brazil, it includes representatives from the country’s Basketball Association, the national team and players such as Yao Ming, Eloi Amauso and Langston Galloway.
“It’s exciting,” Amauso said. “It’s my first time, and hopefully I can be the first of many.”
For some players, being an NBA player has been a dream, particularly the Brooklyn Nets’ Jeremy Lin.
“I just want to be an example of someone who grew up in the U.S. to be a multi-sport athlete in China,” Lin said, “and then from there, the next step is to play in the NBA.”