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Monday, May 20, 2024

NBA Returns to UAE As Middle East Spreads Billions Across Sports

  • The NBA preseason will return to Abu Dhabi as UAE sovereign wealth funds have reportedly shown interest in investing in NBA teams.
  • Neighboring Qatar has already acquired a stake in the Washington Wizards, WNBA’s Mystics, and NHL’s Capitals.
UAE sovereign wealth funds have reportedly shown interest in investing in an NBA team.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

October’s NBA preseason will see the league play in Abu Dhabi for the second straight year and return to Madrid for the first time since 2016.

The Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves will tip off the preseason with two games (Oct. 5 and Oct. 7) at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi as part of the league’s multi-year partnership formed last year with the UAE’s culture and tourism department. The NBA’s return to the UAE comes as neighboring country Qatar led the first sovereign wealth fund to buy into a major U.S. sports team in June, investing in the parent company of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals. 

In February, Bloomberg reported that Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Mubadala Capital was interested in investing in an NBA team. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority is one of the world’s richest sovereign wealth funds, with an estimated $853 billion worth of assets under management. UFC fights have been held in Abu Dhabi since 2010.

Oil-rich Middle Eastern countries continue to pour billions into sports. Saudi Arabia recently added an equity stake in the Professional Fighters League as the Saudi Pro League’s soccer spending spree and LIV Golf’s potential PGA Tour merger continue to upend the global sports industry. Qatar, which owns the French soccer club PSG, recently bought the World Padel Tour.

The Mavericks will play a preseason game against reigning EuroLeague champion Real Madrid in the Spanish capital on October 10, marking 35 years since the NBA’s first games in Spain in 1988. Professional teams from New Zealand, Brazil, and Israel are also scheduled to travel to the U.S. this October to play preseason games against NBA teams.

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