Alonso and Mourning at Aspetar (3)
(Left to right): American basketball legends, Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal

During his first trip to the Middle East as a guest for Stars Chat session at Aspire4Sport Conference and Exhibition, NBA legend, Shaquille O’Neal, hinted that the State of Qatar could soon host its very own National Basketball Association (NBA) game. 

The retired basketball player said:

I give you my word that I’m going to try to come over here [to Qatar] in the next two years with the team [Sacramento Kings]. I know that Qatar’s premier basketball arena will be finished by October next year, which is probably too soon to bring a pre-season game, but we will be back.’

O’Neal, having recently acquired minority ownership of the Sacramento Kings, members of the NBA and once his rivals, said he was in talks with the team’s co-owners and HE Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Secretary General of Qatar Olympic Committee, about hosting an NBA game in the Arabian State. The prospect of the premier basketball championship coming to Qatar was met with applause by an audience that packed the bleachers at the Aspire Dome.

During the 30 minute interview, O’Neal spoke of his past career, personal life and future plans, in which Qatar clearly features significantly. When asked of the likelihood of an NBA game being played in Qatar, O’Neal said:

Yes I can see it, I’ll be talking to my co-owners and I’m sure they’ll do it. I also had a conversation with the HE Sheikh Saoud today about it, so we are all going to be working to get that going, but regardless, I’m going to be coming back [to Qatar] Inshallah.’

Living up to his larger-than-life persona, O’Neal engaged the audience with jokes and anecdotes, drawing regular laughs from a clearly excited audience. Earlier in the day he toured the Aspire4Sport Exhibition held at the Aspire Dome where he met with his fans and the media. O’Neal also toured the entire Aspire Zone Foundation facility, including Aspetar, which seemed to impress him significantly. He said:

Qatar and Aspire are such a great place to be because everyone’s been very hospitable…we went to the Aspetar hospital here at Aspire, which is truly a facility like no other. I’ve never seen such a facility like this with everything in one location, it’s so great to be here.’

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NBA stars impressed by Aspetar

American basketball Legends, O’Neal & Alonzo Mourning, paid a courtesy visit to Aspetar on Sunday 17 November 2013, where they had a guided tour led by Dr Nebojsa Popovic, Aspetar Surgeon and Barry White, Senior Physical Coach.

O’Neal has been impressed by the Aspetar facilities and said, ‘I’ve never seen a place like this in my life, even in my home country; it’s really amazing.’ O’Neal’s compatriot Alonzo mourning praised Aspetar services by saying, ‘This is heaven for an athlete’.