You may have already heard about this, but the new year came with a bit of great news for Indian basketball stars. The finest in the game have rarely gotten the recognition or the motivation that they need to keep improving at the highest level.
But times are set to change for 2011. The Basketball Federation of India's (BFI) Secretary-General Harish Sharma announced that India's men and women basketball players who will represent the country in different age categories will receive a monthly pay package, which will be an extra form of salary for them, set aside only for their services to Indian Basketball.
This extra salary marks another important step that the BFI has taken to promote the game in India ever since signing a 30-year long sponsorship deal with IMG-Reliance, who are now responsible to help promote and support the growth of basketball in India.
From the BFI website:
Around 75 players in the Senior, Junior (U-18) and Youth (U-16) category in both the men and women section who were picked to represent India in 2010 have been graded in three categories A, B and C and will get a pay package of Rs 30,000, Rs 20,000 and Rs 10,000 respectively.
All these players will get their first 'salary' for three months starting October, November and December 2010, in the New Year, during the course of the 61st Senior National Basketball Championship currently in progress here. All these players will get the remuneration directly from the IMG.
This is exciting news for Indian basketball players and prospective players. Sharma had mentioned that the players will be divided into three different categories, or grades, depending on their talent/potential, and will be paid accordingly. The categories will be extremely flexible and will change dynamically depending on performance.
Too often, in my interviews with some of India's finest players, there is a hint of disillusion about basketball after a certain point. Players reach up to the highest level, get a service job, keep getting national selections, keep playing, but somewhere in this process, the love of the game and the motivation to become a better players seems to wither away. An extra bonus like this should give some of these star players the competitive spark needed to stay at a certain level to maintain their pay grade or work to enter a higher grade.
Of course, the final goal, as Sharma has proclaimed several times and as India's basketball fans have been expecting, is the launch of India's professional basketball league. Such a league will not only bring basketball to a bigger stage but also help our players become full-time basketball professionals with guaranteed salaries.