August 17, 2019

Om Prakash Sr.: Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

Om Prakash Sr., who represented Team India and Services in the 70s/80s, is today's induction into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.
Photo courtesy:

In 1979, he received one of the highest civil honours in the nation for sport, the Arjuna Award.

Click here for more of the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

August 16, 2019

Punjab Police miss out on 2019 FIBA Asia Champions Cup after East Asia Qualifiers in Bangkok

Usually, India's best 'club' team gets an opportunity to play in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, the tournament's biggest international club basketball tournament, bringing together the champions from every country. This time, however, FIBA changed the format to include qualifying rounds to determine the 'final 8' for the FIBA Asia CC. India's Federation Cup champions - Punjab Police - represented the nation in the East Asia qualifiers this week in Bangkok. But a losing record saw them fall outside the top-2 qualifying spots and return home unfulfilled.

From August 13-15, Punjab Police took part in the 2019 FIBA Asia Champions Cup East Asia Qualifiers in Thailand, alongside SAFSA (Singapore), HiTech Bangkok City (Thailand), and Fubon Braves (Chinese Taipei). The teams played three round-robin games each, and the top two were chosen for the final-8 of the tournament.

Host team HiTech Bangkok City and Fubon Braves assured their place in the FIBA Asia CC after winning their first two games. In their third matchup, against each other, Fubon squeezed past HiTech 77-76 to officially finish on top of the group.

Punjab Police featured an undermanned roster, where several of their top players like Amjyot Singh and Arshpreet Singh Bhullar weren't available because of their participation in season 2 of the 3x3BL in Punjab. They started their tournament with a crushing loss to Fubon, 100-56. Punjab's Rajvir Singh had a game high 23 points, but it wouldn't be enough as he got little support from his teammates. Fubon were led by Weir-Chern Liu (18) in the win.

Game 2 was an even weaker performance by Punjab Police, against the hosts, HiTech. Rajvir Singh was again the central force for Punjab, with 26 points on a highly-inefficient 35 shots. For HiTech, Nakorn Jaisanuk scored a team-high 18 to lead his team to a 116-54 win.

Punjab did manage to end matters on a positive note in their final game against Singapore's SAFSA. In a back-and-forth game that went down to the wire, Sukhdeep Dhillon (29) and Ranbir Singh Virdi (19) helped Punjab Police eke out a 81-78 victory. SAFSA were led by Leon Kwek (20) and Delvin Goh (19) in the loss.

With this win, Punjab Police ended the event with a 1-2 record at third place.

August 15, 2019

Indian Bank win 2019 PSG Trophy in Coimbatore

It was the second basketball trip this year for the Indian Bank side to Coimbatore. And for the second time, the journey ended with victory.

After securing the 54th Nachimuthu Gounder Cup in Coimbatore earlier this year, Indian Bank (Chennai) returned to the city in Tamil Nadu and bagged first place in the 2019 PSG Trophy on Tuesday, August 13 at the PSG Sports Club. The prestigious invitational basketball tournament was held between eight teams from around the country from August 9-13, 2019.

Indian Bank secured the title win a 79-61 victory over Indian Army (Delhi) in the final on Tuesday. Hari Ram of Indian Bank scored 29 points to lead his squad to the win.

KSEB (Thiruvanathapuram) defeated Indian Air Force (Delhi) 76-73 and secured third place, led by Jishnu G Nair 19. Ajay Hooda scored 19 for Air Force in the loss.

Eight teams took part in this five-day event: Indian Bank (Chennai), Indian Army (Delhi), Indian Air Force (Delhi), KSEB (Thiruvanathapuram), RCF (Kapurthala), Indian Navy (Lonavala), Customs (Chennai), and last year's winners, Income Tax (Chennai).

Hari Ram of Indian Bank was rewarded the tournament's Best Player award.

PSG Institutions Managing Trustee L. Gopalakrishnan presided the prize giving ceremony and City police commissioner Sumit Sharan gave away the prizes. The winning team earned Rs. 1 lakh, the runners-up Rs. 50,000, and third place received Rs. 25,000.

August 14, 2019

Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp in Tokyo begins today with four Indian players

64 best young basketball prospects - boys and girls - from around Asia and Oceania will attend the 2019 Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp, set to be held in Tokyo, Japan, from August 14-17. Organised together by FIBA and the NBA, the camp will feature several current/former NBA/WNBA players and coaches.

Four Indian players have been invited to this edition of the camp: Siya Deodhar (Nagpur), Amaan Sandhu (Mohali), Harsimran Kaur (Jalandhar) and Arvinder Singh (Barnala). This is the second invited for Deodhar and Sandhu for the BWB Asia Camp, after last year's event that was held in home grounds in Greater Noida's NBA Academy India.

NBA/WNBA players/coaches leading this camp will include: Sam Cassell, Kevon Looney (Golden State Warriors), Robin Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks) Yuta Tabuse (formerly of the Phoenix Suns; Japan), Ashley Battle, Allison Feaster, Yolanda Moore, Pat Delany (Orlando Magic), Bryan Gates (Minnesota Timberwolves), Antonio Lang (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Wes Unseld Jr. (Denver Nuggets). Patrick Hunt (President of the World Association of Basketball Coaches; Australia) will be the camp director and Jeff Tanaka (Chicago Bulls) will serve as the camp’s athletic trainer.

Last year's India's Sanjana Ramesh won the girls' MVP honours at the 2018 BWB Asia Camp in India.

August 13, 2019

Punjab Police participates in Road to Final 8 - East Asia qualifying round for 2019 FIBA Asia Champions Cup

The 2019 FIBA Asia Champions Cup is a tournament that will involve the top club sides from all around the continent. From India, the competitor is determined by the previous winner of the Federation Cup, which was Punjab Police. But before the squad can step out for the main tournament and be a part of the 'Final 8', they will have to win the East Asia qualifying round in Bangkok, set to be held from August 13-15.

Punjab Police will take part in this qualifying round alongside SAFSA (Singapore), HiTech Bangkok City (Thailand), and Fubon Braves (Chinese Taipei). The teams will play in single-round robin format from August 13-15. The top two teams will claim their tickets to the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2019 to join complete the cast of 8 elite professional basketball clubs in Asia.

Punjab Police Roster
  • Arshpreet Singh Bhullar
  • Rajvir Singh
  • Sukhdeep Pal Singh Dhillon
  • Varinder Singh Atwal
  • Rishab Jangra
  • Harwinder Preet Singh
  • Nitish Kumar Sharma
  • Ranbir Singh Virdi
  • Taranpreet Singh
  • Gurjinder Singh

Punjab Police Schedule
  • August 13 - Fubon Braves vs. Punjab Police
  • August 14 - Punjab Police vs. HiTech Bangkok City
  • August 15 - SAFSA vs. Punjab Police

Punjab Police are missing one major star from their roster at this event: Amjyot Singh, who is currently playing in the 3x3BL in Punjab. The team lost their first game by 100-56 to Fubon Braves, and desperately need to notch wins in the next two contests to have a chance for the Final 8 of the FIBA Asia Champions Cup.

August 12, 2019

Central Girls and West Boys win the 2019 Jr. NBA Global Championship; India knocked out early

Two teams from the USA - Central (Girls) and West (Boys) won the 2019 Jr. NBA Global Championship on Sunday, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. This was the second edition of this event, which featured top 13-14 year-old teams from the USA and around the world, including India. For the second year in a row, both the winners were American; for Central (Girls), it was a second consecutive title.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, three-time NBA Champion and Jr. NBA Global Championship Ambassador Dwyane Wade and New Orleans Pelicans Vice President of Basketball Operations/Team Development and former WNBA All-Star Swin Cash presented the winning teams with trophies in postgame ceremonies. The global youth basketball tournament took place from August 6-11 and featured 32 boys and girls teams from around the world. Overall, 15,000 players from 75 countries participated across Jr. NBA Global Championship regional competitions.

The Central girls team, from Kansas City, Missouri, finished the week with a 7-0 record. The team, which defeated the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and West to advance to the Global Championship final, was led by returning champion S’mya Nichols and guards Chloe Clardy, Jada Williams and Kiara Smith, who scored a combined 43 points in the final win over Canada, 72-35.

The West boys team, from Los Angeles, went 2-1 in pool play before winning three straight games in bracket play, including victories over the Northwest, Central and the previously undefeated Southeast, to advance to the Global Championship final. West guard Tyler Rolison recorded a team-high 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Quinton Webb, Issac Martinez and Taj DeGourville combined for 39 points in Sunday's final victory over Africa, 70-61.

Prior to the championship games, former NBA star Grant Hill hosted an awards ceremony with other dignitaries, handing out awards representing the Jr. NBA’s four core values: Determination, Respect, Teamwork and Community.

India's boys and girls teams - comprising of the top performers of the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme - also took part in this tournament for the second straight year. Although both teams were knocked out in the Quarter-Final stage of the International Bracket, India's boys put up an impressive show, winning one big game in overtime and nearly upsetting Canada in the knockouts. For India, young stars Lokendra Singh and Harsh Dagar made a name for themselves with some big performances. The top performer for India's girls team was Muskan Singh.

India's Results

  • India bt. Latin America 73-76 OT
  • Africa bt. India 63-21
  • Europe and Middle East bt. India 52-41
  • International Quarter-Final: Canada bt. India 64-56 OT
  • Mid Atlantic bt. India 79-26

  • Latin America bt. India 54-21
  • Africa bt. India 57-36
  • Europe and Middle East bt. India 62-23
  • International Quarter-Final: Canada bt. India 65-26 OT
  • Northeast bt. India 69-47

Hoopdarshan Episode 82: Amjyot Singh on G-League, Indian Basketball Suspension, and 3x3BL

The top player in Indian Basketball - Amjyot Singh - joins Hoopdarshan in Episode 82 to discuss his suspension from India's national team, his experiences playing in the NBA G-League, taking part in the 3x3BL in Punjab this season, and rating Gurudwara langar food. In addition, co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok catch up on all the happenings from the Indian basketball universe.

Amjyot Singh is one of the most accomplished Indian basketball players. Hailing from Chandigarh, he has played for and captained India's national team in several important tournaments. He has played professionally in the NBA's G-League for the OKC Blue and the Wisconsin Herd, as well as the D-League and BJ Summer League in Japan. Singh is one of the nation's top 3x3 players as well, starring in numerous international events for his clubs.

Hoopdarshan is the truest voice of Indian basketball, and since we're such hopeless fans of the game, it will become the voice of everything basketball related we love, from the NBA to international hoops, too. On every episode of Hoopdarshan, we will be inviting a special guest to interview or chat to about a variety of topics. With expert insight from some of the brightest and most-involved people in the world of Indian basketball, we hope to bring this conversation to a many more interested fans, players, and followers of the game.

Make sure to follow Hoopdarshan on Soundcloud or search for 'Hoopdarshan' on the iTunes Store! Auto-sync Hoopdarshan to your preferred podcast app NOW!

Hoopdarshan can be found on...

August 10, 2019

Shahid Qureshi - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy: Man's World India
One of the first Indians to play pro basketball abroad, an Indian international star, and a hero of Mumbai's most iconic court, Shahid Qureshi is today's entrant into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Hailing from Mumbai, Qureshi honed his game at the famed basketball courts in Nagpada and Mastan. A dominant power-forward, Qureshi was strong on both ends of the floor. He is widely recognised as the first Indian to play professionally abroad, after he was handed a contract to play in Sweden for the club Akropol in 1994. It was here that he picked up the nickname 'Djor', or the Bull, for his forceful style of play. Qureshi played two seasons in Sweden, including pro 3x3 basketball as well. He briefly played pro in Singapore, too.

Qureshi last represented India's national team in 1998, and was the last player from Nagpada to don the Indian colours. He worked for Tata Steel and has now permanently moved to the US.

Click here for more of the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

August 4, 2019

When I Be On The Mic: Experiences from commentating 3x3BL basketball from Jalandhar

I have been a basketball journalist in India for nearly a decade, with most of the work coming in the form of research, typing out the written word, and more recently, speaking about the game with interviews on the Hoopdarshan podcast. But over the past weekend, I was able to check a box that I hadn't ever considered to even dream of: in-game commentary!

The second season of India's FIBA 3x3 basketball league, the 3x3BL, tipped off at the Lovely Professional University (LPU) in Jalandhar on Friday, August 2. The new season of the league featured 12 men's teams divided into two conferences, and, for the first time, six teams for women in their own conference. I was honoured with an invite to commentate on the first two days of the event, during the live streaming broadcast of all of the round-1 men's matches for 3BL's Facebook and YouTube pages.

It was a confusing, strange, educational, and ultimately, a fun experience. Although I have had experience talking about basketball thanks to my podcast, I usually play the role of the 'colour' commentator, as in, the one that brings in deflections and hype to the story, instead of the 'play by play' guy who tells the story as it is. In Jalandhar, however, I was the only one on the commentary desk, which meant that I had to play both roles: narrating the action as its happening, and peppering it with 'colour' whenever necessary.

I have a fairly good knowledge of the big-name Indian basketball players (I have been responsible for making many of those names 'big' in the first place) and of the backgrounds of these players. But at least half of the participating players at the event were new to me, and I had to learn about them in research right before the event or on the fly as I commentated. This meant that, while I had a treasure trove of information to share about the likes of Amjyot Singh Gill, Amritpal Singh, Inderbir Singh Gill, Palpreet Singh Brar, etc., I stumbled often matching the face to the name on the back of the jersey with some of the other players. This, of course, led to a few errors and rookie mistakes, like erroneously calling Team Gurugram's Rajan Sharma "Ranjan" for most of the day!

Another early challenge was the quick pace of the game. Basketball is a fast game anyways, but 3x3 - where possessions change in a matter of seconds and big moments happen quickly one after the other - is even more boosted up. In the first few games I commentated, I tried to talk about everything: every cut, every pass, every shot, every turnover, and it led to me sounding as if I was on fast-forward. As the day progressed, I learned to slow down and focus on slightly-bigger things. As it is with basketball players who put in practice in the fundamentals, the game itself slowed down for me.

3x3 is a new-ish version of the game for me, too. And often, I would forget that the outside arc is a 2-point shot, not a three. I had to correct myself on air several times. There was a big moment in the first semi-final of Day 2 between Mumbai and Kolkata where Mumbai was down by two points and Inderbir Gill took an outside shot to tie the score. My instinct, however, made me think it was a three, and I shouted, "Inderbir for the win". He made the shot - and within the next split second, I corrected myself and mentioned that the games are now tied, that we are now going into overtime. As an aside, that was the most exciting game of the weekend and many other players told me that it was one of the greatest 3x3 games they'd ever witnessed.

Finally, one of the major confusions for me in the first day was the balance between the crowd at the arena (in LPU) and the live-streamers online. I had originally intended to only be the voice for the live-stream, and thus, set out with the agenda of commentating only for audiences at home. But halfway through, my voice made it out into the PA system at the arena, and suddenly, every play-by-play description and every backstory was being heard by the fans and the players. It left me in a bit of a lurch: do I be hype for the crowd (but disturb the players) or I do the professional job for the broadcast. On Day 2, I was back to only-broadcast, which I think helped me focus better.

Day 2 was much more enjoyable. I was more confident after the first day's experience of my pace, about coordinating with the broadcast director and the on-floor PA, about when to interject background facts and when to talk about game. I had better energy and was able to react better to a lot of huge moments on the floor. One of the best things that happened was that I got an opportunity to interview several guests during the broadcast who sat next to me, including Dhruv Barman, Kiran Shastri, Amjyot Singh Gill, Richard Xalco, Lalrina Renthlei, and more. I've always been better in conversation and interviews, and jumping back and forth between them and the basketball action felt more in my wheelhouse.

Another lesson - for myself and for those aspiring to commentate on basketball events - was the importance of having 'filler' information. As in, background stuff to talk about that isn't necessarily about the live action. There are many moments in the game including timeouts or referee-disputes when I had to keep talking about something - anything - just to ensure that the audiences stay engaged. I did background research on Jalandhar, on the basketball history of Jalandhar, and several of the top players in action. In addition, I gave opinions about the changing style of basketball, on tactics, on history, of the larger picture of Indian basketball, and more. You can never be too prepared for the 'empty' time!

All in all, I enjoyed my time behind the mic, and enjoyed watching some of the highlights later posted by 3x3BL with my jokes and exclamations. It is a different challenge to be smooth without interruptions and stammers for a live audience, and I gained new respect for those who do this job at a professional level. I hope that this experience was able to improve my own game - and I'll look forward to the challenge again!

August 1, 2019

Hoopdarshan Episode 81: Harman Singha and the Street Ball League

In Episode 81 of Hoopdarshan, actor, producer and NBA anchor Harman Singha joins us to talk about his latest brainchild: Mumbai's 3x3 Street Ball League. In a conversation with co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok, Singha discusses the conception of the league with celebrity co-owners, playing 1v1 against his brother Rannvijay Singha, his background loving the NBA, and the best food to eat in Jalandhar.

Harman Singha is an Indian actor, writer, and producer, famous for the web series A.I.SHA and for NBA India coverage on Sony SIX. Harman is one of the co-founders of the Street Ball League in Mumbai, for which they've brought together several celebrities from the city to invest in teams in their league including Esha Gupta, Melvin Louis, Sara Khan, Gursimran Khamba, and more.

Hoopdarshan is the truest voice of Indian basketball, and since we're such hopeless fans of the game, it will become the voice of everything basketball related we love, from the NBA to international hoops, too. On every episode of Hoopdarshan, we will be inviting a special guest to interview or chat to about a variety of topics. With expert insight from some of the brightest and most-involved people in the world of Indian basketball, we hope to bring this conversation to a many more interested fans, players, and followers of the game.

Make sure to follow Hoopdarshan on Soundcloud or search for 'Hoopdarshan' on the iTunes Store! Auto-sync Hoopdarshan to your preferred podcast app NOW!

Hoopdarshan can be found on...

July 30, 2019

Shiba Maggon - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

A player, a coach, a referee, a leader. Shiba Maggon, called 'The Queen of Basketball', has found a way to be involved in Indian basketball for decades in a variety of roles. She has already given a lifetime of service to the game - and has a lifetime more left to give. For all this and more, she is now an entrant into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Born in Karnal, Haryana in 1976, Maggon found basketball success early in her life coming through the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in Chandigarh. The untimely death of her sister - an international netball and aspiring basketball player - thrust Maggon more passionately into the basketball realm from the early 90s. She later joined Western Railways, Ajmer in 1996 and was with them till 2002. In 2002 Shiba joined MTNL Delhi and played with them till Jan 2011. Her glittering domestic basketball career included seven gold medals and eight silvers for Railways and Delhi in the Senior Nationals, plus three gold medals and three bronzes in Federation Cups, between 1997-2011.

Maggon was selected for India's junior national team in 1992 and soon graduated to the seniors, for whom she became a staple for nearly 15 years of action. Maggon served often as India's captain and played in five FIBA Asia Championships for Women in the course of her career, and was ranked in the top 5 for Asian players in 2002. She was also part of Indian basketball team to take part at Commonwealth Games for the first time at Australia in 2006.

In 1998, Maggon got a scholarship to the Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 1998, where she majored in Physical Education. She also completed a diploma course in Olympism and Humanism with the International Olympic Academy in Athens, Greece. Maggon is credited as being one of the first Indian woman to be an international FIBA certified referee. She has also served as a basketball voice-over commentator and a lead coordinator for NBA India.

Her post-retirement career has since seen her succeed in different avenues of basketball, most notably coaching India's national teams at the senior, junior, and youth levels, as well as coaching Delhi in several domestic nationals. She has been a part of India's national women's team coaching staff for several important international events, including the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, and more. She will continue the journey for India at the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup for Women. She is also in contention for the Dhyan Chand Award this year.

Click here for more of the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

July 25, 2019

Hanuman Singh Rathore - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

Whether he suited up for Rajasthan, Railways, or India, Hanuman Singh Rathore was often the smallest guy on the basketball court. But the talented guard exceeded expectations and succeeded with heart over height over a glittering basketball career in the 1970s-80s, with highlights including the Arjuna Award and a spot in India's only Olympic team. Today, Rathore is added to the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Rathore was born in Bhagwanpur, in Nagaur district of Rajasthan in February 1950. He attended the Military School in Ajmer and then the Rajasthan University in Jaipur. By the time he began to play for Rajasthan's state teams, the 5-foot-9 guard had developed into one of the best young talents in the country. Singh eventually joined Indian Railways, for whom he manned the point en-route to several titles in the domestic national championships.

Rathore played an important role for Team India and was part of the legendary squad that played in the Moscow 1980 Olympics, the only time India has participated in an Olympic basketball tournament. India finished the tournament 0-7, but Rathore gained some valuable experience. His high-point was the game against Czechoslovakia, when he dished out 10 assists in a losing effort.

Rathore was honoured with the Arjuna Award in 1975. He remained in the periphery of Indian basketball in various roles after his retirement, including being a selector for India's national teams. He is currently employed with the Steel Authority of India (SAIL).

Click here for more of the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

July 22, 2019

Mumbai's Street Ball League for 3-on-3 basketball set for first season with players' auction

The growing trend of 3-on-3 basketball in India finds a snazzy new face in Mumbai with the launch of the Street Ball League. Steered by several local celebrities in the city, the league held an auction for their 12 men's and 4 women's teams on Sunday, July 21st at the WeWork BKC in Mumbai. The basketball action is set to take off in September and will be held for two months in the league's first season.

The Street Ball League is a brainchild of actors and social-media celebrity brothers Rannvijay Singha and Harman Singha. The two have long been involved with the promotion of the NBA in India, and this league brings together many of their celebrity connections as team owners for the first season, including actor Esha Gupta, dancer and choreographer Melvin Louis, Sana Khan, comedian Gursimran Khamba, former Miss India Universe Simran Kaur Mundi, MTV VJs Varun Sood and Divya Aggarwal and more.

"Basketball runs in my veins," said Harman Singh. "Both my parents were players of high caliber, learning a sport young was an integral part of growing up and I was lucky enough to always enjoy and play the game. Street Ball is our way of spreading the love and joy of this game to all the youngsters out there."

"The basketball movement in India has got new wings through the Street Ball League..." said the league's director, Pranav Premnarayen. "We are proud to structure new innovative platforms in various sports and take them across India."

The format of the games in this league will be slightly different from the FIBA 3x3 rules. The matches will be of 24 minutes each, divided in two halves. A a new entry called "the clutch time" will be included in the last two minutes of each half where all the scoring will get doubled.

On the day of the auction, the highest bidders in the women's section was Team Hot Steppers, picking up Carina Menefiz, and Team Face Spartans, who picked up Sanjana. In the men's action, the highest bid was made by Hot Steppers again for Pradeep Singh.

Street Ball League - Teams
  • Men: Bay City Bombers, Buzzer Beaters, Dunk Vipers, Face Spartans, Flying Panthers, Hoop Heads, Hot Steppers, Old School Ballers, Samurais, South Side Warriors, Three Pointers, Titans.
  • Women: Face Spartans, Hoop Heads, Hot Steppers, Playmakers.

According to its media spokesperson, the Street Ball League has ambitions to grow to other cities in India in the future, including New Delhi, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Kolkata, and Chennai.

July 21, 2019

Hoopdarshan Episode 80: India Coach Veselin Matic, NBA Free Agency, and Ajinkya

Hoopdarshan's 80th episode is going to be a long, emotional journey, highlighted with an interview with India's new national team coach, Veselin Matic of Serbia. Matic discusses his plans for Team India going forward, the U16 SABA triumph, and how he hopes to bring a change to Indian basketball. Furthermore, co-hosts Kaushik Lakhsman and Karan Madhok talk about the frantic NBA Free Agency as well as Marathi basketball movie 'Ajinkya'.

Matic was named the head coach of India's men's national basketball programme a few months ago and arrived in India with a wealth of basketball experience. He has coached the national teams of Iran, Lebanon, and Syria, been an assistant coach for a very successful stretch of Yugoslavia's national team, and coached club basketball in Serbia, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Lebanon, and more.

Also on this episode's Hoopdarshan: India's U16 SABA victory reaction, Satnam Singh's draft rights traded, NBA Academy Games, the new season of 3BL, Kawhi Leonard, Clippers, Lakers, Nets, Durant, Celtics... and deep-diving into the film 'Ajinkya' as part of our favourite obsession: basketball in Indian cinema.

Hoopdarshan is the truest voice of Indian basketball, and since we're such hopeless fans of the game, it will become the voice of everything basketball related we love, from the NBA to international hoops, too. On every episode of Hoopdarshan, we will be inviting a special guest to interview or chat to about a variety of topics. With expert insight from some of the brightest and most-involved people in the world of Indian basketball, we hope to bring this conversation to a many more interested fans, players, and followers of the game.

Make sure to follow Hoopdarshan on Soundcloud or search for 'Hoopdarshan' on the iTunes Store! Auto-sync Hoopdarshan to your preferred podcast app NOW!

Hoopdarshan can be found on...

July 20, 2019

Sozhasingarayer Robinson - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

It's time to shower much-overdue love on a true Indian basketball legend. Sozhasingarayer Robinson might've never won big national awards or given the true respect he deserved during his playing days. But the 6-8 forward was pound-for-pound one of the greatest Indians to ever play the game, a player who took the sport into new frontiers for India, and in the process gathered a cult following behind him. For all this and more, Robinson is today's entrant into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Born in Puducherry, raised in Gujarat, and dominant eventually for Tamil Nadu, Robinson was a standout athlete and one of the first Indian players to play professionally abroad. After dominating at the state and national level, he gained fame in larger circles after leading India to a surprise win over South Korea in 2004's FIBA Asia Stancovic Cup, pouring in a scintillating 36 points in the victory. Robinson was in and out of the national team in the early part of the 2000s. His performances were impressive enough for him to be offered contracts to play in Iran for Negar Sang Sharekord and Farsh Mashad.

Back home, Robinson played for IOB (Chennai), and later, for the Indian Army, aside from his duties to the TN state team. He was a swashbuckling forward capable of hot shooting streaks, attacking from the perimeter, and finishing on the inside. Robinson was offered to play in New Zealand for the Auckland Stars after strong performances against their national team, but eventually wasn't able to complete the transaction.

A game-changing moment in Robinson's career came when he faced suspension from Tamil Nadu for missing training camp in 2006. In protest of the lack of support for India's national team, Robinson retired from the game the same year, only to un-retire a few years later to finish off his hoops journey.

Click here for more of the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

July 19, 2019

IBMD: Indian Basketball Movie Database

Imagine playing one on one, full-court basketball against the love of your life. You are a beautiful woman and he's a handsome man, and you are not just playing a game, but a game within the game. You want to defeat him, of course, because you're proud, and because he's riled up a gang of children around you to chant "girls can't play basketball". You want to prove them all wrong. But you also want to exert decades of pent-up frustration against this man. This man who was once your best friend, with whom you learned the game and honed your skills. This man, who years later, you find through the game again. And now, there's is something deeper in your connection. A little more chemistry. A little more passion. This isn't just one-on-one basketball. This is the beginning of a love story.

Now imagine you stop what you're doing mid-court to fix your sari.

Yes, you're playing in a sari.

Can you relate to this predicament? Have you ever fought for the game's honour against Cricket? Has basketball ever come in between your ambitions and parenthood? Is your dream to play one-on-one against the opposite sex so that you can eventually fall in love? Can you relate to using the help of a little extra-terrestrial to give your basketball team superpowers to defeat your bigger, badder opponents?

If you answered 'yes' to any of those scenarios above, congratulations, you're a lover of basketball in Indian cinema. As unlikely as it may be, there has been somewhat of an important and hilarious history of hoops and Indian films. Sometimes, basketball is only an important scene in the movie, highlighting the dramatic moment forever in the hearts of me and my fellow 'Hoopistanis'. Sometimes, basketball is a major plot device, setting in motion the cause and effect that leads to redemption or glory or heartbreak or a dance-break.

With this in mind, I present to you the comprehensive and running-list of IBMD, the Indian Basketball Movie Database. Several years ago, I'd written an article called 'Great Moments in Bollywood and Basketball', analysing memorable basketball-related scenes in three hit movies of the past few decades. The IBMD expands on that to include new movies and movies in Indian cinema (sometimes in other languages) outside the 'Bollywood' realm.

There are many more films/moments out there that I hope to add to keep this list growing. Readers: please send me your suggestions of basketball scenes, not only in Indian cinema (of any language) but also in any streaming shows that we must pay attention to.

With that said, in order of release date, here is the IBMD:

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)

It's only right that we begin with the most influential Indian film ever made about basketball. KKHH was released months after Michael Jordan hit his final shot for the Chicago Bulls, and propelled an entire generation of young Indian players to take up the game (and maybe find love with their childhood bestie in the process). A few years ago, I wrote a long essay 'Kuch Hoops Hota Hai' on the surprising legacy of this Karan Johar hit on Indian basketball, featuring interviews with many top players of the national team who swore about how this film urged them towards the game.

KKHH is filled with classic moments. Kajol playing in a sari. Shah Rukh Khan's weird dribble and obvious dirty fouls. The awkward sexual tension between the two players at a kids' summer camp. The film used basketball as the 'cool' and 'western' thing that Indians in KKHH's fantasy-land aspired to. The film of course became one of the highest-grossing Bollywood releases in history and won tonnes of Filmfare awards. Khan and Kajol were in the primes of their careers, a get-together of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen earlier in the 90s. They play basketball as high-schoolers and then again as reunited adults. Cue song. Cue romance. Cue Salman Khan in a cameo making a Jordan reference. This movie had everything.

Koi Mil Gaya (2003)

The Hrithik Roshan film is primarily a rip-off of ET and Forest Gump, but for its basketball sequence midway, it took a little off of Space Jam, too. Roshan and his friends (all children) have made friends with a friendly alien creature called 'Jadoo' who can help them do things of supernatural athletic ability. At one point in the film, Roshan's team - the Paandavs - play against a mean-looking bunch called the 'Kasauli Tigers'.

From the sidelines, Jadoo waves his magic on the Paandavs and Roshan, helping the movie star dribble like Allen Iverson and dunk like Zion Williamson in a video-game cheat mode. The Tigers actually go on a 49-0 run at one point, and Jadoo needs the sun to instill his influence on the game. When the sun does show, the game turns, and Roshan slam dunks his way (with a very high usage rate, I might add) to a huge comeback. In the incredible game-deciding sequence, Jadoo-powered Roshan intercepts a shot, jumps, does three body flips in mid air to land his feet on top of the oppositions rim, and then drop the winner. Wow.

Dhoom 2 (2006)

Oh, you thought we were done with Roshan pretending to be a basketball savant? Let me take you a few years forward to 'Dhoom 2', the successful sequel to the international spy/sexy/action thriller. Like Khan and Kajol in KKHH, here are a couple of more actors in their prime: Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. It's raining. It's night. There's a lot of leather. And Roshan drops the immortal words that are now the opening sequence of our Hoopdarshan podcast: "Yeh International game hai - Deemag is khela jata hai, gussey sey nahi" (This is an international game, played by the mind, not with anger).

He was talking about their sexy one-on-one game, of course, but this is Bollywood, so he was also talking about their international spy game. We get to see more of Roshan's questionable basketball skills. He travels a lot. He throws the ball into the basket instead of shooting it properly. Bachchan strips down to a tight mini-skirt. Roshan and Bachchan come awfully close to each other and drop flirtatious trash talk. I'm sorry, but Cricket could never be this romantic.

Ajinkya (2012)

I haven't yet seen an Indian film that uses basketball as a main plot-line as thoroughly as this small Marathi movie, 'Ajinkya'. Ajinkya is about a basketball coach in Nagpur who is a relentless winner with a big ego. He wants his team to win every game by at least 25 points and has won the regional tournament for about 14 straight years. But then, some dumb things happen: 1) his wife wants to have a child, but he can't go with her to get her fertility results because of this year's tournament final; 2) he slaps his best three-point shooter for not wanting to practice and this player doesn't play for him in the final; 3) he loses the final and vows to give up basketball; 4) his wife - who can conceive now - doesn't want to conceive a child with him anymore; and 5) he leaves town alone heartbroken - without basketball and family - to work in Aurangabad.

The rest of the film is his redemption project in Aurangabad. Both the director (Tejas Deoskar) and leading man (Sandeep Kulkari) of this film have a hoops background, so even if the story itself is quite trash, the basketball emotions are realistic. The coach takes a bunch of rag-tag new players who don't know anything about the game in his new city and teaches them, and in returns, learns that having fun is more important than winning. They play the same tournament again and reach the finals. I won't spoil it any further. But conception is still involved. So is James Bond.

Vallinam (2014)

Shelf this one in 'TBD', as I've yet got a chance to watch this Tamil film and review it for its basketball moments. From early reports, I learned that the movie pitted basketball (the hero) vs. cricket (the villain). Directed by Arivazhaghan Venkatachalam, the film starred Tamil actor Nakul as the top basketball player who plays for India. Apparently, the final scene of the movie is a basketball game between the Indian team and a foreign team at an expensive set in Thiyagaraya Nagar in Chennai.

Half Girlfriend (2017)

Chetan Bhagat writes terrible books, but sometimes they make for good films. 'Half Girlfiend' is not one of those good films. No, this one is about a romance that starts through basketball (have I heard this before?) in a fictional Delhi college between a girl from a rich, English-speaking family (Shraddha Kapoor) and a boy from a Hindi-speaking Bihari background (Arjun Kapoor). Despite their differences, they're both great basketball players and leaders of their respective women's and men's teams. Arjun coaxes Shraddha for a date through basketball, but she only wants to be his 'half' girlfriend. Which means, perhaps the equivalent of an NBA contract with a player option? They play a lot of one-one-one hoops, make a lot of NBA references, discuss their language differences, and sow the seeds of what will become deeper love later.

The NBA in India was actually heavily involved in partnering with this movie. NBA coaches worked with the two Kapoors in helping them look the part of hoopers on screen in production. References to LeBron and Durant and Curry are dropped liberally. NBA posters and insignia are seen often. The movie was even promoted around live NBA broadcasts in India in 2017. Anyways, a lot more happens after college for these two (basketball is mostly forgotten) and things get dramatic and sad and the Bill Gates Foundation is involved and the girl sings around in New York and the boy is drunk a lot. In the end, they get together, and basketball is involved again. I watched and reviewed this movie in great detail for its basketball stuff so you wouldn't have to.

Tarunyachya Lathevar (2017)

This Marathi film begins with two girls playing one-on-one in a dark indoor hall, right after one of those girls also practices her bharatnatyam skills on the same court. And we're off! This movie was directed/starred by the former president of the Maharashtra State Basketball Association (MSBA) and featured several actual Maharashtra players in action. The protagonist in the film loves basketball - as in, staring-lustfully-at-the-hoop-while-romantic-music-plays-in-the-background-for-way-too-long kinda love. There is a lot more basketball in this movie, including romance blossoming from basketball (of course), evil administrators, and of course, a big tournament. The game-scenes look organic and not choreographed, giving them a more realistic feel.

July 16, 2019

3BL league to return for Season 2 in India next month - this time, with a women's league, too!

Last year, 3x3 basketball in India was revolutionised by the 3BL, the first FIBA-approved league for the shorter format in the country. The league reached several Indian cities and helped provide a new avenue for professionals and fans to find Indian hoops.

With the success of the inaugural season behind them, 3BL will return for Season 2 next month - and this time, launch at a grander scale which will include a first-ever women's 3x3 pro league in India.

Organised by YKBK Enterprises, the second season of India’s only FIBA-recognised league, 3x3 Pro Basketball League Indian Sub-continent (3BL) will be held from August 2 - September 29 across five cities in India. In a pioneering move, 3BL is also introducing a women’s 3x3 basketball league, which will be conducted simultaneously alongside the men’s league. The second season of 3BL will feature 12 teams with the best of Indian basketball talent, both men and women, competing in 9 rounds over the period of two months to emerge champions. In an association with the Government of Punjab to promote basketball in the state that has produced many of India’s best talent, the 9 rounds of 3BL will be conducted in Chandigarh, Amritsar, Mohali, Jalandhar and Patiala.

In an effort to provide a platform to Indian female basketball players and build 3x3 basketball at grassroots level in the country, a professional women’s league for 3x3 basketball will be brought to India for the first time 3BL Season 2. In recent years, major international women’s basketball tournaments like FIBA Women’s Asia Cup 2017, FIBA U16 Women’s Asian Championship 2017, FIBA U18 Asian Championship 2018 and the upcoming FIBA Women’s Asia Cup 2019 have also been hosted in India. The women’s league in 3BL will provide an opportunity to the female basketball players to explore a professional career in basketball and further improve the sporting environment for women’s sports in India.

Photo credit: 3BL
By conducting the league over nine rounds, 3BL will help increase the points for the Indian federation in the FIBA 3x3 Rankings, which is the decider for a berth on the qualification round for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The winners of the men’s rounds will also qualify for spots on two FIBA 3x3 World Tour Masters and three Challengers.

Last year's 3BL was won by the Delhi Hoopers - the most dominant squad over the six rounds of basketball.

The try-outs for the second season of 3BL will be held on 19th July 2019 for the women’s league and for 20th July 2019 for the men’s league at Siri Fort Sports Complex in New Delhi. Basketball players interested in participating can register here:

Speaking about the second season of 3BL, Rohit Bakshi, League Commissioner, 3BL, said, "We are thrilled to bring 3BL back for a second season after the resounding success of the first season last year. This year, our aim is to make 3BL bigger and better and make a significant impact on India’s FIBA 3x3 Ranking to give us a shot to qualify for Tokyo 2020. We have also introduced the women’s league this time to give a platform to all the fantastic and aspiring female basketball players in India. Basketball Federation of India and The Government of Punjab is supporting 3BL in improving the sporting environment in India and we will be working together to ensure India becomes a dominant force in 3x3 Basketball."

July 15, 2019

NBA Global Academy wins 3rd NBA Academy Games in Atlanta; Team India finishes 1-5

For the past few years, the NBA has significantly shifted its focus on the future on basketball, on finding and developing elite-level youth talent from across the world with their network of international academies. Every year, these academies come together for a battle royale, pitting the best against the best. This year, the 3rd NBA Academy Games were held in Atlanta, for the first time in USA soil, and the result was a repeat of last year: the top team of the tournament was once again the NBA Global Academy - based in Canberra (Australia) - who took the title with a final win against World Select Blue on Sunday.

The 2019 NBA Academy Games were held at the Emory Sports Medical Complex in Atlanta, featuring eight Academy teams from around the world: World Select Red, NBA Global Academy, TSF, NBA Academy China, NBA Academy Africa, NBA Academy India, NBA Academy Latin America, and World Select Blue. The tournament held from July 9-14, with the final and third-place games held on Sunday, the 14th of July.

NBA Global Academy cruised to a victory in the final against World Select Blue, 97-73. NBA Global Academy took the first quarter 28-16. Despite World Select Blue taking the third quarter 25-19, NBA Global Academy easily won all other quarters to secure the win. Uruguay's Santiago Vannet was the leader for the Global Academy with 20 points and 5 assists in the win, while Australian Blake Jones added 18. NBA Global Academy also featured India's standout prospect Princepal Singh on their roster. For World Select Blue, Samuel Mennenga was the top scorer with a game-high 27 in the loss.

Featuring the likes of Amaan Sandhu, Harshwardhan Tomar, and Pranav Prince, the NBA Academy India finished the tournament with a 1-5 record, at 7th place out of the 8 participating teams. Former India's national team head coach and the current technical director of the Academy in Greater Noida, Scott Flemming was the head coach of this team. They lost their first five games to World Select Blue, NBA Academy Latin America, NBA Academy Africa, NBA Global Academy, and, in the knockout stage, a second time to NBA Academy Africa. But they picked up an important consolation victory over NBA Academy China in their last game.

NBA Academy India results from 3rd NBA Academy Games
  • World Select Blue 87-43 NBA Academy India
  • NBA Academy Latin America 84-49 NBA Academy India
  • NBA Academy Africa 66-27 NBA Academy India
  • NBA Global Academy 94-38 NBA Academy India
  • NBA Academy Africa 59-35 NBA Academy India
  • NBA Academy India 65-61 NBA Academy China

The top performer for Team India at this tournament was Amaan Sandhu - 'Big Baby Punjab' - who finished the tournament averaging 10.67 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest.

July 14, 2019

Anil Kumar Punj - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

One of the high-flying stars of India's national teams in the 60s/70s, Anil Kumar Punj rose to a rare level of basketball greatness in the country, culminating with the honour of the Arjuna Award in 1974. Today, I add Punj to the illustrious list of legends in the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Born in Kapurthala (Punjab) in 1947 - months before India's independence - Punj became an important player for India's Border Security Force (BSF) and the national team. He had an illustrious career in the BSF from 1968 to 2004 from where he retired as Commandant.

He distinguished himself at the international and national level and was a member of the Indian Basketball Teams which participated in the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok, and two FIBA Asia Basketball Championships - 1971 (Tokyo) and 1973 (Manila).

Over his career, Punj bagged two Gold, four Silver and four Bronze Medals in National Basketball Championships and also 13 Gold Medals and 2 Silver Medals in All India Police Games. He was decorated with the Arjuna Award by the Government of India in 1974 and Police Medal for Meritorious Services 1992. He was also decorated with the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Award by the Punjab Govt. in 1986. Punj passed away at age 63 in January 2011.

Click here for more of the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

July 10, 2019

4 years after becoming first Indian to be drafted into the NBA, Satnam Singh's draft rights have been traded to the Memphis Grizzlies

It takes nuclear fusion of the intergalactic level to give birth to a star, a minor big bang. Often, these stars die in spectacular supernovas. But sometimes, they just whimper away in silence, disappearing into the dark universe.

Four years ago, Satnam Singh's entry into the NBA began with a bang. The Dallas Mavericks made the 19-year-old, 7-foot-2 center the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA. His 2015 drafting was a major moment in Indian basketball history, spawning optimism for the growth of the game in India and a Netflix documentary detailing the astonishing story that ended with him wearing that Mavericks hat.

Four years later, and without a single NBA game under his belt, Satnam dalliance with the Mavs has ended in a quiet whimper. The Mavericks announced on Monday, July 8 that they were trading the draft rights to Satnam Singh from 2015 along with two future second-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies, in return for point guard Delon Wright. It will now be up to the Grizzlies to decide if they wish to offer Satnam a contract, waive their draft right, or retain the rights without having Satnam under contract the way the Mavericks did for the past four years.

It is a question of curious NBA legalese on how the Mavericks were able to hold on to Satnam's draft rights since 2015. Satnam isn't the only one; the Mavericks have a habit of drafting players and retaining their rights for long terms, including Finland's Petteri Koponen who was drafted in 2007 by the Philadelphia 76ers, and whose rights the Mavs have held since 2011. Ben Zajdel of The Smoking Cuban dug deep into the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement and explained the rules in more layman terms:

Essentially, this means that as long as a player is under contract with a non-NBA team and gives the NBA team that drafted him no indication he plans to play in the NBA, they retain his draft rights. The process can go on for more than a decade, apparently. If an international player is no longer under contract with a non-NBA team and informs the team that holds his draft rights he intends to play in the NBA, they must tender him an offer within the next year, or he becomes a rookie free agent.

The draft rights for Satnam essentially meant that he can play for no other team except for the one's that hold his rights - which was the Mavericks, and which will now be the Grizzlies.

Even though he has been absent from realising his NBA dream, Satnam has been actively pursuing many other avenues of pro basketball. After he was first drafted, he spent two seasons playing for the Mavericks' affiliate Texas Legends. He returned to India to play a bigger role in the national team from 2017-18 and try his hand at 3x3 basketball. Last year, he took upon a new journey: Canada's National Basketball League, where he played for the St. John's Edge that made the NBL Finals.

Now, just when it seemed that Satnam's NBA affair was over, his name popped up in the news stream again, heading to a new team. Perhaps, a fresh start? Remember, we are still speaking of his draft rights, not his contract itself. No one yet knows what the future holds. When I reached out to Satnam about his thoughts on the trade, he was in the dark as the rest of us.

"I don’t know yet about anything," he said. "I hope I get soon some good news."

We in the Indian basketball world are hoping for the same. Hopefully the quiet decay of the star is only the beginning of something new, the start of another journey in Satnam's universe.

July 8, 2019

Aparna Ghosh - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

She has dedicated a lifetime to the sport of basketball in India, and with the Dhyan Chand Award, been appropriately celebrated for her service. Today, I add the great Aparna Ghosh into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Hailing from Bolpur in West Bengal, Ghosh has been one of the most accomplished players and coaches in Indian basketball, playing for the national team for 16 years and going on to become a highly-successful coach for Indian Railways. Since substituting herself to lead the charge from the coaches' bench, Ghosh has led Indian Railways women to a myriad of success for several years. She currently serves as the Sports Officer at RSPB of the Railway Board.

In 2002, Ghosh was honoured with the Dhyan Chand Award for lifetime achievement in sports and games, handed by the Indian government. She is one of only two basketball personalities in India to receive this honour.

Ghosh has also served as part of India's national coaching system, and was the national women's team assistant coach at the 2015 FIBA Asia Women's Championship. She has served in the organising committee of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and in the same year was picked to be in a select group of Indian coaches to receive training at the George Mason University in the USA. In 2015, Ghosh was given a lifetime achievement award by the Calcutta Sports Journalist Club.

Click here for more of the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.