2023 FIBA World Cup: Steve Kerr Proud to Bring Basketball to the Middle East

2023 FIBA World Cup: Steve Kerr Proud to Bring Basketball to the Middle East

The US national team is finishing up their preparations in Abu Dhabi before taking a flight to Manila for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

While head coach Steve Kerr and his team are intent on making the most of the two exhibition games they have scheduled against Greece and Germany at Etihad Arena this week, on Aug. 18 and 20, respectively, they are also eager to soak up the experience in the UAE and have stated that they are taking great pride in helping spread the game of basketball to the Middle East.

The NBA and Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism signed a historic multi-year agreement that allowed the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks to play two preseason games in the UAE capital in October. The NBA made its historic debut in the Middle East in front of sold-out audiences at Etihad Arena, and anticipation is already high for the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves’ forthcoming arrival for a pair of preseason games in October.

Ahead of the upcoming World Cup, which begins on August 25 across three nations—Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines—Abu Dhabi is currently hosting the national teams of the US, Greece, Germany, Lebanon, Egypt, and Mexico, as well as renowned college basketball programs Kansas State and Arizona State.

At the Etihad Arena, Lebanon and Egypt will face off on Thursday. The Cedars will also play Mexico on Friday and Arizona State on Saturday.

Given his history with Lebanon and Egypt, the legendary Kerr, who has four NBA Championships as the coach of the Golden State Warriors and five rings as a player (three with the Chicago Bulls and two with the San Antonio Spurs), says he will be closely monitoring Lebanon and Egypt this week in Abu Dhabi.

“I’m definitely planning on coming to see Lebanon play. It’s my birthplace; there’s a lot of family history there, and they’re playing my alma mater, Arizona, so I have to come to that game,” declared Kerr head coach of US national team in the 2023 FIBA World Cup on Wednesday after the New York University Abu Dhabi practice.

“I’ve had a couple of friends who actually played in Lebanon; Craig McMillan way back played there, and the game is getting more and more popular in the Middle East.

“Egypt is also playing in this tournament. I spent three years in Egypt growing up, and nobody played basketball, and now Egyptian clubs are among the best in Africa. Basketball in the Middle East is really exploding, and it’s exciting.”

The only player who has traveled to Abu Dhabi with prior playing experience is forward Bobby Portis of the Bucks, who took part in the NBA preseason games last year. Before continuing on to the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the remainder of the team is seeing the city for the first time and hopes to make their mark.

“It is important. We feel like global ambassadors for the game. The game has been so great to all of us that we want to spread the interest and extend to different fan bases and to see different parts of the world,” US assistant coach and the head coach of the Miami Heat, Erik Spoelstra, told Arab News.

“A lot of us had never been out here. It’s amazing to be a part of the culture out here and sightsee. We’re busy, but we also don’t want to be in the hotel all the time.”

Cam Johnson of the Brooklyn Nets was in good spirits during practice on Wednesday and feels honored to be participating in this week of international competition in Abu Dhabi.

“The globalization of the game has just been ever-increasing. More and more players are getting better and better across the world. The game is being adopted more and more across the world, and it’s a beautiful thing to see,” said Johnson.

Mikal Bridges, who played with Johnson in Phoenix before they were traded to Brooklyn together, is his teammate and close friend, and he says he is “grateful” to be in the situation he is in right now.

“Just playing for the USA, showing light to other people that don’t really have basketball around, it’s not that big a sport for them. I’m happy I’m part of that and part of this culture to help, lead, and show by example, so that’s really cool,” said Bridges.

Both Johnson and Bridges are interested in learning more about Egypt’s Patrick Gardner, who last month played for the Miami Heat in the Summer League before signing an Exhibit 10 contract to attend the Brooklyn Nets training camp.

Bridges intends to attend one of Lebanon’s games as well.

“I’ve got my boy Omari Spellman for Lebanon, so we’ll see how he does,” Bridges said in reference to his former Villanova teammate, who was just signed by the Cedars and granted honorary Lebanese citizenship.


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