The Milwaukee Bucks are headed to Abu Dhabi for 2 preseason games this October

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Bucks will play the first-ever NBA games in the United Arab Emirates, Oct. 6 and 8, at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 will mark the league’s first games held in the UAE and the Arabian Gulf.

“We are honored to have been selected to participate in the NBA’s first games in the United Arab Emirates,” said Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv Forum President Peter Feigin. “As the NBA continues to expand globally, we look forward to visiting Abu Dhabi and furthering the league’s goals of inspiring people through basketball. We will be proud to represent our city, our state and Bucks fans worldwide this October.”

CNN once called Abu Dhabi "the richest city in the world," and according to Professor Michael Mirer, UW-Milwaukee Department of Journalism, Advertising and Media Studies, finding new fans will lead to new jersey sales and new TV deals.

"I think Adam Silver's goal is to make basketball the #2 sport in the world, there's no chance of eclipsing soccer," Mirer said.

The population of the UAE is just under 10 million, which is only as many people as the Chicago Metropolitan area. While other potential sites might be more populous, Mirer thinks Abu Dhabi is attractive to the NBA as a crossroads or gateway city "if you want to bring the game to a lot of people, who haven't had access, UAE is closer to a lot of people," he said.

The exhibitions could invite criticism, as Amnesty International takes issue with "serious human rights violations" from UAE's government

Mirer thinks the league factored that into their decision "what they are hoping is that the money will outweigh whatever negative publicity they are going to get. They are going to get some, and it's not unfair," he said.

Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the star attraction in Abu Dhabi, he is one of the most well-liked and marketable athletes in the world. Mirer says the NBA's expansion into Europe attracted Antetokounmpo to basketball, and these exhibitions could do the same for the "next Giannis" in the Middle East.

The Bucks have a long history as world basketball ambassadors. They opened the 2020 regular season beating the Charlotte Hornets in Paris, France. In 1987, Milwaukee and the Bucks hosted the McDonald's Open at the MECCA. The Bucks played a round robin tournament against Italy's Tracer Milano club team, and the Soviet Union national team. The Bucks beat the Soviets 127-100 in the final game.

You can watch most of the game on YouTube HERE.

This will be the second time in three years the Bucks will play a game outside of the United States and Canada.

The Bucks complete 2022 preseason schedule will be announced at a later date.

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