NBA games are to be held in the Arabian Gulf for the first time from 2022 through a new multiyear partnership between the North American basketball league and Abu Dhabi.

Two preseason games will be staged in Abu Dhabi in October 2022, although the dates and teams involved have yet to be confirmed. The venue itself is also still be revealed, although it has been reported locally that the 18,000-capacity Etihad Arena will play host.

The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) said the partnership will include a variety of interactive fan events featuring appearances by current and former NBA players, the launch of Jr. NBA Leagues for children across the UAE and an NBA 2K League exhibition event.

“Abu Dhabi is a vibrant multicultural hub with a demonstrated track record of hosting world-class sporting events,” said NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum.

No preseason games have been played outside of North America since 2019 because of the pandemic. The first NBA preseason game to be staged outside North America was in Milan, Italy in 1984. Since then, preseason and regular season matches have been held in the UK, China, India, Mexico and Brazil among other markets.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman at DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “Today’s announcement further demonstrates the emirate’s position as a top-tier home for global sports and for attracting the very best talent. As Abu Dhabi is committed to further developing as a dynamic global destination, adding the NBA to our impressive year-round portfolio of sports and entertainment events, only reinforces the UAE capital’s standing as a centre of sporting excellence.

“We look forward to the NBA playing an integral role in developing young talent and healthy lifestyles at grassroots level – the heart of the UAE’s strategy, which places great emphasis on empowering youth and building a sustainable future for the nation and future generations.”