A trip nearly six years in the making, Vivek Ranadive is finally headed home.
The Sacramento Kings owner will take his team across the Pacific Ocean on Drake’s private plane for a pair of preseason games against the Indiana Pacers at the NSCI Dome in Mumbai, his hometown.
The contests will mark the NBA’s first ever preseason games in India, something Ranadive has been trying to accomplish ever since he purchased the team in 2013.
“It’s been a long journey, but the NBA has kept its promise to me,” Ranadive said, via USA Today. “I can’t even tell you how incredible and exciting that is. It’s beyond my wildest dreams.”
Ranadive, who grew up in India’s largest city, moved to the Boston area when he was 17 to study electrical engineering. He quickly fell in love with the sport while in the United States, and even coached his daughter’s team when she was 12.
The NBA opened up a league office in India in 2011, two years before Ranadive purchased the Kings. Since then, thanks to Ranadive’s help, the league has been growing rapidly in the country — televising games, hosting basketball programs and academies and more.
While basketball isn’t a sport with much footing in India — cricket and soccer easily dominate the sports landscape there — Ranadive has referred to it as basketball’s “next great frontier.”
“It can be played in rich countries. It can be played in poor countries,” Ranadive said. “Unlike cricket, it doesn’t require a lot of space. There isn’t a lot of space in a place like Mumbai.
“It also has a vibe to it, which is very much in tune with the Indian vibe. It’s a spectacle. It’s a celebration.”
And, he said, it’s only a matter of time before there’s an Indian star in the NBA.
“I expect within the next 10 years they’ll have a player out there that plays in the NBA,” Ranadive said. “I expect there will be a league that starts there.”
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