The offseason for Dallas has been an eventful one. The re-signing of Kyrie Irving, two promising rookies, and the signing of Grant Williams has made fans of the club excited for this upcoming season. The preseason presented more excitement as the Mavericks were one of the teams chosen to represent the NBA alongside the Minnesota Timberwolves in Abu Dhabi. Etihad Arena would go on to host the games for the second year in a row after the league made their Arabian Gulf debut last season when the Milwaukee Bucks faced the Atlanta Hawks. The NBA has also held games in locations like Paris and Shanghai, with the latter hosting the Mavericks when they faced the Philadelphia 76ers back in 2018.
The NBA is trying to make this game more accessible to their fans around the globe outside of FIBA or Olympic play. The league has evolved since the United States men’s basketball team brought home the gold medal in 1992 and the Dream Team captivated Barcelona and the world. In the following years, we’ve seen the game of basketball go from a handful of international players to over one hundred international players across the thirty teams in recent years. Dallas Mavericks governor and entrepreneur Mark Cuban would talk to me about his team being invited to participate in the games as well as what his team and the rest of the team that have played and plays here’s impact on this region and the rest of the world.
“With Luka and Kyrie, particularly, the Mavs are a global team,” Cuban said. “Just being able to be part of this and to help spread the NBA love. UAE, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi are not what I expected; they’re cool, right? My general perception coming in is not anything like what it actually was. They’ve been loving, welcoming, and accommodating. It’s been a great experience for all of us.”
“The NBA is a global league. You heard [the fans in the crowd] chanting for Luka and Kyrie the other night. That builds it. It creates awareness for our other guys, too, and for the league. You want to create that love, that global love, for sure. Every time we play somewhere, it’s sold out. The fans are crazy, the energy is amazing, and that just amplifies things for the future, and you build new NBA fans and get people excited. It’s good business, and from a cultural standpoint, I think it creates a good vibe about the NBA for the global basketball community.”
The week’s events brought people together from all over the world including some familiar faces like Basketball Hall of Famers Gary Payton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Inside the NBA’s Kenny Smith, Steve Harvey, Michael B. Jordan, T-Pain, and many other personalities from the world of sports and entertainment. I had the opportunity to speak to former NFL wide receiver turned sportscaster Ahmad Rashad and he would also share his thoughts on seeing the game go from the blacktop to the world stage.
“ When you start thinking about basketball, you think about playing at the playground or in New York up at the courts out there and [then] all of a sudden [for it] to go from there to here [in Abu Dhabi] is just unbelievable. It’s a wonderful game and it’s growing bigger and better every single day. I remember in the NBA when they had a few players from outside the United States and now there’s a whole bunch of players from all over and [they] are really good too. It’s a wonderful, wonderful sport that’s for everybody.”
From Hank Biasatti, the Italian born Canadian who was the first international NBA player with the defunct Toronto Huskies to Hall of Famers like Hakeem Olajuwon and Dirk Nowitizki to current stars like Luka Doncic and MVPs Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic, it’s safe to say that the league’s investment in its global expansion with games in foreign lands and developmental programs like the NBA Academy is going to be paying dividends for the next seventy-seven years and beyond.
Follow Rashad Miller on all social media @theuncoolurban for more sports content as well as his Youtube channel under the same name.