Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi will host two pre-season NBA games between the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks in October, it has been announced.

The games will take place at the 18,000-capacity arena on October 6 and October 8 and will mark the NBA’s first-ever fixtures in the Arabian Gulf.

In November, the NBA signed a multi-year deal to stage games in Abu Dhabi from 2022. The venue, dates and teams were not revealed at the time but full details have now been confirmed today (Tuesday).

Earlier this year, the partnership between the NBA and Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT Abu Dhabi) saw the launch of the first Jr. NBA Abu Dhabi League, a youth basketball league for 450 boys and girls aged 11-14 from local schools.

The partnership also includes interactive fan events featuring appearances from current and former NBA players, as well as NBA FIT clinics promoting health and wellness, and an NBA 2K League exhibition event at Middle East Film & Comic Con.

DCT Abu Dhabi’s ‘Visit Abu Dhabi’ tourism promotion initiative will also serve as the official tourism destination partner of the NBA in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and China.

Ralph Rivera, NBA Europe and Middle East managing director, said: “Bringing the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks to Abu Dhabi in October is an important milestone in the NBA and basketball’s global growth.

“In addition to the games, we look forward to engaging fans through a variety of interactive events and giving back to the local community through NBA Cares initiatives and youth development clinics that will teach the sport and its values to young boys and girls.”

Saleh Mohamed Al Geziry, DCT Abu Dhabi director general, added: “We are thrilled to be hosting the UAE’s first NBA games in Abu Dhabi and look forward to welcoming the Atlanta Hawks, the Milwaukee Bucks and basketball fans from across the world to discover this incredible city and experience our authentic Emirati culture for themselves.

“Basketball has the ability to unite communities, and the spirit of the game will be felt by players and visitors, both on and off the court. The unveiling of the NBA teams marks an important milestone in our wider partnership with this world-class sports organisation.”

Etihad Arena, which is located on Yas Island, staged its inaugural events in January 2021, with three Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fight cards. The arena had been due to open in 2020 but this was pushed back due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, the NBA announced that it will head to Japan for two pre-season games in September and October, which will mark the league’s first fixtures outside of North America in more than two and a half years.

The Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards will play two games at the Saitama Super Arena on September 30 and October 2. The last overseas NBA game took place on January 24, 2020, when the Bucks faced off against the Charlotte Hornets at Paris’ Accor Arena.

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