Young basketball enthusiasts in the UAE will have the opportunity to showcase their talents by inaugurating the first Junior NBA Abu Dhabi League on Sunday.
The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) jointly organized a youth basketball league of 450 boys and girls aged 11-14 from 30 schools in Abu Dhabi.
The Junior NBA Abu Dhabi League action begins on Saturday, March 5 and ends with the final on May 21. The league draft was held on February 27, where each of the 30 participating schools was assigned an NBA team.
Schools were then provided with branded products from the respective NBA teams for their scheduled matches, basketball development clinics, skills challenges and competitions.
The Youth League is part of a groundbreaking multi-year partnership between DCT Abu Dhabi and the NBA. The deal will make the UAE capital the first city in the Arabian Gulf to host the pre-season NBA Games in October this year.
Other aspects of the partnership include the presence of current and former NBA stars, a variety of interactive fan events featuring an NBA 2K league show event and a series of NBA Fit clinics.
The Junior NBA Abu Dhabi League will form part of the world famous Junior NBA Program. In the first edition 20 schools participated in the boys section, while 10 schools signed up in the girls section. Expansion plans for the future will see more additions to schools and leagues in the coming years.
The draft event on Sunday was attended by His Excellency Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, Ralph Rivera, Managing Director of NBA Europe and the Middle East, and Clyde Drexler, a 10-time NBA All-Star.
During the draft event, His Excellency Mohammed Al Mubarak said, “It is an honor for Abu Dhabi to host the first ever Junior NBA League in the UAE, which will inspire our boys and girls across the UAE to take part in this very popular sport.”
“Anyone who has grown up loving basketball knows first-hand how amazing the game is. It truly brings communities together, works in groups, promotes leadership skills and promotes healthy lifestyles, creating lifelong memories in a way that is about Abu Dhabi.
“We are excited to share our love of basketball with the rest of the world, as we work together with the NBA to build the next generation of sports talent.”
Drexler shared his enthusiasm with the 10-time NBA All-Star, expressing confidence in the program’s ability to quickly-track the development of sports in the region.
“It was great to be on the court with the boys and girls who participated in the first junior NBA Abu Dhabi League and to share my love for the game,” he said.
“Basketball has inspired me to fulfill my dream, and I know this program will do the same for the kids in Abu Dhabi. Who knows, the next NBA legend may be found in this league. “
Meanwhile, Rivera said: “It is great to be back in Abu Dhabi for the inauguration of the Junior NBA Abu Dhabi League, which marks a significant milestone in our partnership with DCT Abu Dhabi.”
It is part of our mission to inspire and engage the next generation of players and fans through the game of basketball, as well as to increase youth participation for boys and girls to promote the values of teamwork, respect and inclusion.
The partnership between the two organizations serves DCT Abu Dhabi as the NBA’s official tourism destination partner in the Middle East, North Africa, China and Europe.