The Milwaukee Bucks in Abu Dhabi bring the flavor of the Fiserv Forum
As the Bucks take on the Atlanta Hawks for two preseason games in Abu Dhabi, the National Basketball Association’s first event in the Middle East, many Milwaukeeans have traveled to bring a taste of the games within the Fiserv Forum to international audiences.
Shawna “DJ Shawna” Nicols blasts beats including music from Milwaukee, Rim Rockers performs alongside the Hawks dance crew and Melanie Ricks hosts the game for overseas fans at the Etihad Arena.
Ricks co-hosted Thursday’s game with Atlanta host Shamea Morton.
She said it wasn’t that different from a Fiserv forum game.
“I’ll tell you, I was pleasantly surprised at how responsive the fans are, but how similar they are to our fans in Milwaukee,” Ricks said. “People were good at cheering and being a crowd.”
One thing the animation team was told was to avoid hand gestures, especially pointing as they would before throwing a t-shirt into the crowd.
Another culture shock was when the group visited the mosque, the women traveling with the Bucks had to cover themselves from head to toe. Men were not required to do the same.
While Abu Dhabi is a modern city, Ricks said, the country of the United Arab Emirates has been cited by Human Rights Watch as a country that has “significant discrimination against women”.
“I have so much pride that I can not only be a woman hosting the game and hosting it with another woman, and the crowd was very engaged and responsive, but we are two black women hosting the first world games in Abu Dhabi. It suffocated me a bit,” Ricks said. “We are also fighting for some rights in the United States and to show how amazing women are, I’m grateful for that.”
The goal was to not only bring the NBA to the Etihad Arena, but also the cultures of Milwaukee and Atlanta.
“Basically, we got the game months ago. The NBA called and they said we were going to bring live entertainment from the Bucks and the Hawks,” Bucks executive producer Johnny Watson said. “They asked us to think about what we wanted to do and how to share Milwaukee with the world.”
Watson said part of the culture is just the people they bring in, sharing their Milwaukee pride. It also includes various giveaways for participants to grow their Bucks fandom.
For DJ Shawna, that means playing music mostly like she would at Fiserv Forum, but she added a Middle Eastern twist.
“What I love about the Bucks is how global and diverse our team is. That’s one of my favorite things is that we have an eclectic group of players and humans who have an eclectic taste in music from afro beats, reggaeton and even Serge Ibaka, who has music on Spotify,” Nicols said. “It’s one of the coolest things to DJ for them.”
She also said she would add Milwaukee music when she took over the DJ booth at Saturday’s game.
“I usually still do that, and I don’t even think about it anymore because I do it so often. We have so much music and I collected it over the summer, which I’m excited to share,” Nicols said. . “I always try to do my part with Milwaukee music and Milwaukee artists.”