Dubai's EuroLeague Debut Sparks NBA's European Expansion Considerations

Amidst swirling anticipation and strategic maneuvers, the imminent approval of Dubai's entry into the EuroLeague marks a pivotal juncture in European basketball, with far-reaching implications for the sport's global landscape

by Sededin Dedovic
Dubai's EuroLeague Debut Sparks NBA's European Expansion Considerations
© Jamie McDonald / Getty Images

In a ground-breaking development set to reshape the landscape of European basketball, the long-awaited Dubai project is set for formal approval on Wednesday. This landmark move marks a key addition to the future of sport in Europe, promising a new era of competition and growth.

Enormous resources were promised to improve the quality of the league, TV broadcasts and marketing, which the organizers stated as the most important. And many analysts believe that within 10 years, the Euroleague could catch up with the NBA in terms of popularity.

After navigating various challenges and uncertainties, reports surrounding Dubai's integration into the Euroleague ecosystem are on the verge of official confirmation. As clubs and shareholders meet tomorrow and the day after tomorrow to discuss, the larger consensus is already leaning towards giving the green light to the project, with the majority firmly in favour.

Allegations of Dubai's entry into European basketball appeared two years ago, last year there was a bit more serious talk, and now it seems that everything is settled and finished. Although only two clubs have objections, these concerns appear to be surmountable.

One club's reservations stem from geopolitical reasons, while the other has a different perspective on the project. However, with the support of Euroleague General Manager Paulius Motiejunas and President Dejan Bodiroga, with the broad support of stakeholders, it seems that the inclusion of Dubai was inevitable and is now a done deal.

Dzanan Musa one of best players of Real Madrid and former NBA and Nets player© Borja B. Hojas / Getty Images

Dubai's inaugural season in the BKT EuroCup should debunk earlier speculation about extravagant maneuvers in the transfer market, signaling a commitment to a steady and methodical approach.

Instead of transforming the league format overnight, Dubai aims to gradually assert its strength on the field, adopting a pragmatic and business-oriented ethos on and off the field. But of course, don't be fooled by this, the organizers have announced changes that you can't even imagine.

Beyond its sporting ambitions, Dubai's entry into Euroleague basketball has catalyzed wider regional interest, with neighboring Abu Dhabi expressing a strong desire to host the upcoming Final Four. This palpable enthusiasm underscores the region's growing appetite for basketball, transcending traditional NBA-centric narratives.

The NBA is reportedly considering the possibility of entering the European market. According to a detailed report by Sportico, the NBA is currently "exploring options" in Europe, including the possibility of creating a new league.

According to the same report, the league could be a joint venture with FIBA, following the BAL model that currently exists in Africa. We have to admit that this would really be a revolution in basketball and that on two continents where the best quality basketball is played.

However, many times in the last 30 years, the European expansion scenario has been mentioned and then abandoned by the NBA. It tells us enough that the news that Dubai will take over the Euroleague two years ago was met with condemnation and mistrust.

A key point of the report is that the NBA has approached interested parties in several ways to expand operations in Europe beyond its Euroleague partnership. More than that, the investment bank Rein Group was hired to evaluate the possibilities of the NBA in Europe, and here comes the most interesting part of the report.

The basketball product in Europe in cooperation with the Middle East has huge potential: "The NBA believes that the basketball ecosystem in Europe and the Middle East could be worth as much as $3 billion in annual revenues, based on Rein's projections." And that makes the move of the Euroleague with Dubai even more interesting, because of course, whether we like it or not, today's sport is closely related to money and material things, and without that there is no quality competition.

Of course, the NBA also saw its opportunity in this event, which threatens to change basketball as we have seen it so far. Maybe in the future we will see NBA players who go to Europe at the peak of their career. The effects of Dubai's integration extend far beyond the realm of Euroleague basketball.

Speculation has been rife regarding the NBA's potential foray into Europe, fueled by reports of scouting discussions and strategic assessments. With the tantalizing prospect of a joint venture with FIBA, reminiscent of the successful Basketball Africa League (BAL), the NBA is poised to enter a lucrative market.

While the NBA's aspirations for European expansion have surfaced intermittently over the past three decades, a confluence of factors, including Dubai's key role, lend credence to renewed optimism. Now it seems that everything is over and that we are facing the finished act.

As stakeholders and investors assess the growing opportunities, the stage is set for a transformative chapter in the global basketball landscape.