July 10, 2012

NBA Player Raja Bell to visit India

Relative to all the hundreds of other players in the NBA, 6 foot 5 Raja Bell should be no more distinguished than the next average backup shooting guard in the league. And yet, when I think of the 35-year-old sharpshooter and defensive specialist, I think of three different and memorable Raja Bells. I think of the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers when Bell, as an unknown rookie, was a surprise contributor to the squad led by Allen Iverson which made the Finals. I think of the mid 2000s Phoenix Suns when Bell emerged as a sharpshooter in Phoenix’s run and gun system and was a famous menace to Kobe Bryant. And I think of him in a Jazz uniform (where he has played in two separate tenures) as a sound, reliable backup.

You can add a fourth, distinct memory to that list. Raja Bell, NBA player in India!

NBA India announced today that Bell will become the 20th NBA/WNBA player or legend to visit India since 2008. Bell will be in New Delhi from July 12-17th to train with India’s National Men’s Team and participate in a variety of fan events and basketball development programmes.

Undrafted in 1999, Bell began his pro career with the 76ers in 2001, and went on to play for the Mavericks, Jazz, Suns, Bobcats, Warriors, and returned to the Jazz (with whom he currently plays) in 2010. As a Sun, Bell made the NBA’s All Defensive First Team in 2007.

“As an international NBA player, I love what the NBA is doing in India to grow the game and I am looking forward to visiting the country for the first time,” said Bell, who is originally from the US Virgin Islands, “During my trip I will have the privilege of working with aspiring basketball players and hope one day to see an NBA player from India.”

“Raja made his mark in the NBA through perseverance, strong defense and a team-first mentality that provides a great example to Indian youth that if you work hard you can achieve your goals,” said Heidi Ueberroth, NBA President, International. “We are thrilled at the response we have received in India thus far and bringing over NBA players helps inspire young fans and is a great way to teach the game.”

On July 14, Bell will attend the Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA National Skills Challenge Finals at Thyagaraj Stadium in New Delhi. The school-based program has taught basketball to approximately 10,000 students and 800 coaches in five Indian cities. The top 10 players from each city (top 5 boys and top 5 girls) earned a trip to Delhi to compete in the National Finals. One boy and one girl will be crowned National Champion and win a trip to NBA All-Star 2013 in Houston, Texas.

Bell will also conduct an NBA Cares clinic at Thyagaraj Stadium on July 14 in conjunction with Love in Action – a Delhi-based NGO which uses the sport of basketball to provide life-skills education to children from slums in East Delhi. Forty children will participate in the clinic.

On July 15, Bell will host a clinic for select Mahindra NBA Challenge participants at Delhi Public School (Vasant Kunj) and on July 16 and 17 he will train with India’s Senior Men’s and U18 Men’s National Basketball Teams at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Delhi.