USA Basketball has reached a deal with Abu Dhabi to bring Team USA to the Middle East for exhibition games in August, the latest sign of the United Arab Emirates’ growing investment in American basketball that could eventually lead to NBA team ownership.
The announcement was made Wednesday in Berlin by USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley in conjunction with the national federations of Germany and Greece, which will play Team USA in the three-day event.
USA Basketball will be the host and play Germany on Aug. 18 and Greece on Aug. 20. The showcase is serving as a warmup event for the FIBA World Cup, which will begin the following week in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The event is being sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, the government vehicle that made a multiyear deal with the NBA to bring exhibition games to the United Arab Emirates beginning last fall.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks played two games in Abu Dhabi in October, and more games are planned for this fall, reportedly featuring the Dallas Mavericks.
The NBA’s business connections in China, where the league had focused its international development for the previous two decades, have eroded over the past four years. In the meantime, there has been a direct shift to developing deeper ties in the Middle East, particularly in Abu Dhabi.
In December, NBA owners approved a plan that would allow foreign sovereign wealth funds to purchase minority stakes of up to 20% in teams.
Abu Dhabi’s fund, Mubadala, has shown an interest in potentially making such an investment in an NBA team, according to multiple reports. The fund currently has more than $280 billion in assets.
Last year, the NBA opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Abu Dhabi, a symbolic gesture that underscored the league’s desire to establish a market in the United Arab Emirates.
The shift now includes USA Basketball, which will be on a round-the-world journey this summer. After a planned training camp in Las Vegas, Team USA is scheduled to play Slovenia and Spain in Malaga, Spain, before traveling to Abu Dhabi.
Steve Kerr will take over as national team coach for the World Cup, considered international basketball’s most demanding event, after the U.S. qualified last month.
“This is the first time our men’s national team will play in the UAE and we’re excited to engage with fans from across the globe,” Tooley said in a statement, “while also offering our players and coaches memorable on- and off-court experiences.”