Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young on Wednesday promised to dazzle Gulf fans as the NBA debuts in the oil-rich region with two pre-season games in Abu Dhabi this week.
The Hawks will take on the Milwaukee Bucks in the United Arab Emirates capital on Thursday and Saturday, the latest top-level sport to appear in the Gulf.
Qatar will host football’s World Cup from November and four Formula One races will take place in the region next year, as well as golf, tennis and other sports.
“I’m definitely going to come out here and try to put on a show for the fans," Young told reporters on Wednesday.
“It’s going to be competitive, but at the same time, we know what the long run is and we are just trying to build and try and get better."
The games are part of the league’s first overseas foray in two years, after a pause for the pandemic. Although all the staff are vaccinated, a small minority of NBA players, three per cent, are not.
The reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors, won two pre-season games against the Washington Wizards in Japan last week, while Paris and Mexico City will host regular-season fixtures.
The two games in the Emirati capital are part of a multi-year partnership between the NBA and Abu Dhabi.
The Bucks, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, were named as favourites for this season’s title in the annual survey of the league’s 30 general managers.
“We feel like we’re a team that’s in the mix and we feel blessed or fortunate to be in that mix of teams," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer told AFP.
“Now we got to put the work in each day and prepare, build our habits and get ready for a regular season that’s always very tough."