USA Basketball has reached a deal with Abu Dhabi to bring the U.S. team to the Middle East for an exhibition game in August, the latest sign of the United Arab Emirates’ growing investment in USA Basketball that could eventually lead to NBA ownership.
USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley made the announcement Wednesday in Berlin along with the German and Greek national federations, which will play the U.S. team in the three-day event.
USA Basketball will host Germany and Greece on Aug. 18 and Aug. 20. The showcase is a warm-up for the FIBA World Cup, which takes place next week in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The event is sponsored by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism, the government agency that struck a multi-year deal with the NBA to bring exhibition games to the United Arab Emirates starting last fall.
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Over the past 20 years, the NBA’s international development in China has focused on the NBA’s business connections in China, but that has eroded over the past four years. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, especially in Abu Dhabi, there has been a direct shift to developing deeper relationships.
In December, NBA owners approved a plan that would allow foreign sovereign wealth funds to buy minority stakes of up to 20 percent in teams.
Abu Dhabi-based fund Mubadala has expressed interest in a possible such 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 physical store in Abu Dhabi, a symbolic move that underscores the league’s desire to establish a market in the United Arab Emirates.
The shift now includes USA Basketball, which will be traveling the world this summer. After a planned training camp in Las Vegas, the U.S. is scheduled to play Slovenia and Spain in Malaga, Spain, before heading to Abu Dhabi.
Steve Kerr will take over as national team coach for the World Cup, considered the most demanding event in international basketball, after Team USA qualified last month.
“This is the first time our men’s national team has played in the UAE and we are excited to engage with fans from all over the world,” Tully said in a statement, “while also providing our players and coaches with memorable experience on and off the court.”