NBA India Games: The Latest Move In NBA International Talent Nurturing
When people think of the NBA and India, they probably have to rack their brains to find a connection. If they do settle on one, they probably remember the names Sim Bhullar and Satnam Singh. Both were big men who were celebrated for being two of the first players of Indian descent to break into the NBA. Bhullar went undrafted, then worked his way up through the G-League to become the first player of Indian descent to log NBA minutes in April of 2015. Shortly after, Singh became the first of Indian descent ever taken in the NBA draft.
Today, the NBA continues its attempt at growing its brand abroad. Two preseason games will take place in the world’s second-most populated country titled, the “NBA India Games”. The Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers will face off twice in Mumbai. This appearance will make them the first North American professional teams to ever play a game in the country of India. Casual NBA fans may not know much about the NBA and India, but there’s a growing enthusiasm for basketball that could develop into what fans have in the Philippines and China. According to USA Today, the NBA garnered 100 million viewers in India last season alone. That still-growing fanbase is already one-third of the US population.
NBA India Games
The NBA’s Growth In India
The NBA has had a plan to grow fan interest in India for a few years now. Realistically, it may never leapfrog cricket as the nation’s most popular sport. However, basketball has the potential to rally to number two down the line if the youth keep engaging in it. Programs such as the NBA Academy in India take place in Delhi and are responsible for nurturing young talent. Although exact figures are confidential, it’s the NBA’s largest investment outside of America according to France 24.
Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive was a driving force in making the event happen in his home country. After purchasing the Kings in 2013, he made it clear that hosting preseason games in India was always a long term goal. Ranadive firmly believes that India is fertile ground for basketball player development. If new resources and viewership keep pouring in at this rate, then a country with one billion-plus people is bound to nurture starting-level talent. Maybe even a star. It’ll just take some time.
After Kevin Durant won his first championship in 2017, he made an appearance at one of India’s camps. That move ended up deepening the relationship between the NBA and India’s growing basketball scene. Fast forward a few years, and eight young men and women have received college or high school scholarships as a result of their participation in one of India’s several academies.
The Games Themselves
The Pacers and Kings will do the honors of breaking in NBA Basketball in India with their two preseason showdowns. Games will take place on October 4th and 5th at the Dome, NSCI, SVP Stadium in Mumbai, India. Several youth clinics and academy events will take place in the days leading up to the matches.
It’s unfortunate that Victor Oladipo won’t participate due to his recovery from injury, but fans will still get to watch up and coming talent like Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, T.J. Warren, and Domantas Sabonis. On top of that, they’ll have the pleasure of witnessing the Sacramento Kings. It goes without saying that they’re a team that almost any hoops head is willing to go out of the way to see.
What’s Next After the NBA India Games
China was already a nation with a growing hunger for basketball, but Yao Ming‘s emergence truly bridged the gap between the league and the East. The Indian scene is in its nascent stages compared to China. Ming joined the junior team as a 13-year-old for the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association. He nabbed a spot on the senior team four years later, then played five years at the CBA’s highest level. Yao Ming was taken first overall in the 2002 NBA Draft to complete a nine-year process from international play to the NBA.
Ming was able to benefit from the basketball infrastructure that China provided with the CBA’s junior and senior leagues. India, on the other hand, doesn’t have a dedicated pro league. They once had the eight-team United Basketball Alliance, but India’s governing body of basketball shut it down. The country needs opportunities outside of American scholarship offers to continue nurturing homegrown talent once they hit their late teens.
Finding India’s version of Yao Ming seems like the path to take Indian basketball to the next level. However, with the way today’s game is trending that player should be bred in the vein of Stephen Curry or Kristaps Porzingis. A crafty guard with a deadeye shot and elite handles has a place on any NBA team for the foreseeable future. The same goes for a finesse-packed big man who can shoot over everyone. At this developmental rate, the world may still be 10-15 years away from seeing something close to an Indian-born star. The NBA is willing to take that chance though. For all we know, that young player could be watching De’Aaron Fox run the floor at the NBA India Games
Embed from Getty Images