With the Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers becoming the first North American professional teams to play in India, the NBA reportedly hopes to start a basketball league in the nation in the next five years.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN’s Marc J. Spears that “there is serious consideration to start a league” in the nation of 1.3 billion people. Although no NBA players have hailed from India, the league hopes it can be a pipeline for talent similar to other foreign countries.
This development comes on the heels of the NBA partnering with former President Barack Obama to form the Basketball Africa League, which will tip off with 12 teams in January 2020.
Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé, who was born and raised in Mumbai, India, has been at the forefront of pushing the idea and hopes to name the potential 12-team league “Monsoon Madness.” There are a few hurdles in the way before the league could get off the ground, though, including upgrading arena infrastructure around the country.
NBA expanding its presence in India
The NBA played its first overseas game in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1978 and has consistently played preseason games abroad since 1991. The league has played 200 games in over 20 countries, and just this year, it is also playing NBA Global Games in Saitama, Japan; Shanghai, China; and Vancouver, Canada.
The league may be playing its first games in India on Thursday and Friday, but it has been promoting basketball initiatives in Mumbai since at least 2011, the same year games were broadcast live in the country. The NBA Academy India also opened in 2017.
The Taj Mahal is the ultimate monument of love, and basketball is all about love. pic.twitter.com/B4RlZR5z7E— Vivek Ranadivé (@Vivek) October 3, 2019
The NBA has made a concerted effort to make the two-game set in India a big event, bringing in celebrities such as Priyanka Chopra to games.
With more exposure, the NBA is hoping it will find a star in India to jumpstart the country’s interest in basketball, similar to how former No. 1 overall pick Yao Ming popularized the sport in China. As of now, the biggest names to come out of the country are 18-year-old Princepal Singh, who has transferred to the NBA's Global Academy in Australia, and Northern Arizona’s Sanjana Ramesh, who is the second Indian woman to earn a Division I basketball scholarship.
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