Replicas Of Basketball Franchises Are On Display At The NBA Event At Glocal Junction In Mumbai. (Picture: Rajendra Giri, BloombergQuint)

Dribble, Alley-Oop And Slam Dunk! Can NBA Make Its Mark In India?

The National Basketball Association is looking to find its new Yao Ming from India. And based on the steps being taken, and the response received, it may not be long before you see an Indian floating in a three-pointer at a top NBA side.

In a nation obsessed with sport, basketball finds itself somewhere lower in the pecking order. As a result, names like Satnam Singh, Palpreet Singh Brar and Amjyot Singh don’t ring a bell in the minds of people who treat cricket like religion and its players as Gods.

However, rising competition from sport other than cricket has failed to deter the NBA from taking basketball to India’s grassroot level. From viewership to participation, basketball has seen tremendous growth in the country over the last five years.

“If you look at our television programming as a metric, around 7-8 million people watched our programming around a decade ago. Last season, the figure stood at 125 million,” Yannick Colaco, managing director of the NBA in India, told BloombergQuint in an interview.

Cashing in on the rising popularity of the sport, the NBA will host two pre-season games between the Sacremento Kings and Indiana Pacers in Mumbai next year.

NBA India’s partnership with Reliance Foundation has trained over 10 million children under the junior NBA programme since 2013.

“I don’t think any sport has seen a growth trajectory as phenomenal as basketball has over the last few years,” Colaco said, adding the NBA will continue to invest in India for long-term partnerships.

The NBA Academy In The National Capital Region Of Delhi Houses 24 Prospects Who Train On A 100 Percent Scholarship. (Picture Courtesy: www.nbaacademy.nba.com)

The NBA also conducts a national level talent hunt in partnership with ACG. The academy houses 24 prospects who train on a 100 percent scholarship.

Welcoming Competition

Sporting landscape in India has seen a drastic change over the last few years. The advent of the Pro-Kabaddi League, Pro-Badminton League and the Indian Super League has only increased competition for basketball in the country. The NBA, however, is unfazed.

What these trends show is that Indians are consuming more sport and that they are more open to other forms of sport. The fact that sports other than cricket can emerge in the Indian landscape is positive for the NBA. The number of people consuming basketball is growing exponentially. 
Mark Tatum, Deputy Commissioner, NBA

An IPL Style League?

There have been talks of a professional basketball league in India and the NBA is more than happy to be of help. “What is important is that the level of the game needs to be raised. If we are approached for help by the Basketball Federation of India, we will definitely consider the prospect,” Colaco said.

The NBA is on charge in India. Whether they manage a slam-dunk or face a block, only time will tell. But it certainly is good news for basketball enthusiasts across the country.

Watch the full interaction here: