Emirati women dribbling basketballs in a line

Sporting Unity: Celebrating UAE-US Ties Through Basketball

Long revered as a uniquely American pastime, basketball has since become etched in the cultural fabric of the UAE. The fact is – Emiratis love basketball!

Basketball first became popular in the UAE in 1976, upon the founding of the United Arab Emirates Basketball Association, which organizes and oversees the UAE national basketball team as well as the UAE women's national basketball team, among other international and national competitions.

The UAE Men’s National Team played its first international match in 1982 at the Asian Games. The UAE men’s professional basketball league began play in 2013 and today consists of ten teams.

Women’s basketball has also grown in popularity in the UAE, with clubs across Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai fielding teams that compete internationally.

With the continued partnership of the NBA and other US organizations, and the strong growth of UAE-based basketball clubs and local leagues for both amateur and professional players alike, basketball in the UAE will only continue to grow in the years ahead, inspiring the next generation of Emirati basketball players.

March 2024

In March 2024, the NBA and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) announced that the Boston Celtics and the Denver Nuggets will play two preseason games in October at the Dhabi Games 2024.

October 2023

In October 2023, the UAE hosted two US college basketball teams. The University of Arizona and Kansas State University became the first US universities ever to play a foreign tour in the UAE.

October 2023

In October 2023, the NBA Abu Dhabi Games returned, featuring the Dallas Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

August 2023

In August 2023, the UAE hosted the US national basketball team for two games ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup, marking the team’s first time playing in Abu Dhabi.

October 2022

In October 2022, the first NBA Abu Dhabi Games took place featuring a matchup between the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks, the first time the Gulf region hosted games between two NBA teams.

November 2021

In November 2021, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) announced a multi-year partnership to host the first NBA games in the UAE.

UAE Embassy in DC Basketball Programming

In July 2023, the UAE U-19 Women’s National Basketball Team visited Washington, DC for training and competition with local teams. The athletes improved their skills during clinics with Coach Shannon Clancy, Monumental Sports’ Director of Youth Basketball. The players attended  NBA and WNBA games for Washington’s two professional teams, the Wizards and the Mystics.

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  • UAE woman basketball player dribbling basketball
  • Group photo of UAE women basketball team
  • Group photo of UAE women basketball team
  • Top view shot of basketball court
  • Coach training UAE women's basketball

Together, the UAE and the NBA in the UAE have supported:

  • Jr. NBA Abu Dhabi League
  • NBA FIT clinics
  • NBA Cares events
  • NBA youth basketball development camps
  • Training and skills development for male and female players alike


Junior NBA Abu Dhabi League
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Basketball Growth in the UAE:

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The NBA has televised basketball in the UAE for over 30 years.

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US basketball legends, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Natasha Cloud, among others, have engaged with basketball fans and players across the UAE.

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The NBA supports specialized basketball schools in Dubai, such as the NBA Basketball School in Dubai which first launched in September 2019.

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In October 2022, the NBA opened a store on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.

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In February 2024, Emirates and the NBA announced Emirates as the Official Global Airline Partner of the NBA.

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Emirates is now the inaugural title partner of the NBA Cup, formerly known as the In-Season Tournament.

Sports Engagement in the UAE:

According to YouGov’s “2023 Sports Report: The Global Sports Media Landscape,” the UAE has the greatest percentage of consumers across the world engaged with sports. In 2023, basketball was listed as the third most popular sport for streaming and content engagement in the UAE.

NYU Abu Dhabi basketball team