Basketball Glory Is The Latest Status Symbol For Arab Sheiks

obama, june 2010, sheiks

Photo: The White House via Flickr

Fringe NBA talent is increasingly moving to the Middle East, particularly Kuwait, Syria, Iran, and Qatar, to earn large paychecks, the Wall Street Journal reports.Basketball has long been popular in Israel, but it’s only recently taken off in the region’s Muslim countries.

The local economies have not fallen victim to the recession like Europe has. So fabulously wealthy sheiks hope to pair their gold with the glory that comes with owning a championship basketball team. They’re paying high salaries to that end.

The Journal story indicates that it’s been a mostly positive experience for US transplants. The crowds are rowdy and passionate, and the competition is good. Basketball’s popularity is clearly on the rise in the Middle East.

This helps explain the bizarre story last week that several groups of Arab billionaires were in discussions to purchase the Detroit Pistons. We asked whether the NBA is ready for Arab owners. We now know it better be, because it’s clear the region is ready for the NBA.

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