October 15, 2019

Hoopdarshan Episode 85: Massive NBA India Games Blowout Extravaganza


Welcome to the biggest Hoopdarshan yet, literally, figuratively, metaphorically. Episode 85 is dedicated to the historic NBA India Games in Mumbai. In this jam-packed release, we include interviews with Vivek Ranadive, Jason Williams, Rajesh Sethi, Vanja Cernivec, Diane Gotua, Detlef Schrempf, Domantas Sabonis, Akshay Manwani, and Ridhima Pathak. In addition, co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok discuss the experience of the games in Mumbai first-hand and offer their thoughts on the ongoing NBA-China-Morey controversy.

Breakdown of our guests in this episode:
  • Jason "White Choc" Williams: Sacramento Kings Legend
  • Rajesh Sethi: Managing Director of NBA India
  • Vanja Cernivec: NBA Basketball Operations for the Europe Middle East Africa Region
  • Diane Gotua: VP of NBA's Global Business Operations and Interim MD of NBA India
  • Detlef Schremf: Indiana Pacers Legend
  • Domantas Sabonis: Indiana Pacers Forward
  • Akshay Manwani: NBA India Expert and Hindi Commentator for Sony/Ten
  • Ridhima Pathak: Broadcaster
  • Vivek Ranadive: Owner of Kings



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...

Bigger Than Basketball: The Significance of the NBA India Games


An edited version of this feature was first published for SLAMOnline on October 3, 2019. Read the original version here.


It truly hit me when I saw the promo on a national TV channel. A digitally altered Mumbai. Supersized balloon floats of Myles Turner and Harrison Barnes hovered over city’s iconic skyline. Young people gathered on the streets to watch. Kids jostled for space between the kaali-peeli—black-and-yellow—local taxis for a view. A massive Kings flag unfurled over the excited crowds, and a Pacers banner flew overhead. A cricket player stopped in his tracks to watch, in awe.

I watched in awe, too.

A day later, at a family function, my Maama—mother’s brother—asked me, for the first time, about work.

“So, the NBA is coming here in a big way, aren’t they?”

I smiled. In India, the ‘NBA’ and ‘basketball’ are buzzwords for the youth. People of my uncle’s generation would never “get it”, we thought. The game was too niche, the league was too far away from everyday Indian concerns for any of them to bother. There were a thousand other distractions in mainstream Indian culture.

But even he had heard about it. The Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers were coming to Mumbai for first ever NBA India Games in early October. A mere blimp on the NBA’s calendar, a preseason exhibition between two non-contenders But for India, a giant leap in its basketball history. The jump-ball start to a new era.

*

As an Indian child in the 90s, I knew of the NBA’s existence only in the peripheries. I’d heard of Michael and Magic. I knew that the “Chicago Bulls” meant something good. I’d seen Space Jam half dozen times.

But back then, I didn’t quite understand the value of the world’s greatest basketball league. No, back then, my Lord Almighty of Sports wasn’t Michael Jordan, but an unathletic 5’5” Indian cricket player with the voice of someone who had been skipped over by puberty: Sachin Tendulkar. Like every good Indian boy, Cricket was my Bible and Tendulkar was my God. The NBA was too far away, across oceans, across continents, a sport that spoke in a different accent from the post-colonial cricket commentators, a game that moved in a faster pace than I have ever been accustomed to.

Around Middle School, however, that began to change. Space Jam helped, of course. So did the friends who brought home NBA trading cards and copies of SLAM Magazine from abroad. My school in the Indian Himalayas was obsessed with basketball, and, in every moment of our free time, that’s all we did: stand around a rim shooting baskets, talking shit. I overheard names like Jordan and Malone, and Ewing and Shaq and Kobe. I began to see more basketball games on TV in India: broadcast live only a few times a week, and at the ungodly early morning hour, awake only with the chokidaars and the roosters.

In 1999, the new hobby became an addiction. I followed the playoffs closely, especially because of this underdog eighth seeded team in the East—the New York Knicks—that overcame all odds and beat all favourites to make it to the NBA Finals. Sure, they got whooped by the Spurs and the Twin Towers of Duncan and Robinson once they got there, but I was already in love. Houston, Sprewell, Camby, and SLAM’s first-ever cover-boy LJ had become my favourite team.

Later, out on the courts, my friends and I would re-enact these Finals, with each side assigning themselves the Spurs or the Knicks. I chose New York, of course, and worked day and night on my baseline turnaround fadeways, hoping to emulate Allan Houston’s devastating midrange shots.

Fast-forward the next two decades, and my NBA fandom went in the opposite direction of the Knicks’ credibility. From over thirteen thousand kilometres away, I watched the Spurs become an annual threat, the Lakers become a dynasty, the Suns change the pace and size of the game, LeBron change everything, Kobe make 81, Iverson step over Lue, the Heatles, the Warriors, and more Knicks embarrassments than the word-count of this entire piece. At least we had Linsanity.

For most of this time, the NBA and its biggest stars felt like as alien to me as the Monstars. They were from a different world, a different time-zone, stars in the sky so dominant and charismatic that they felt almost unreal, as if they were fictional characters living in a world I could never access. They might as well have been the Avengers. Some definitely had superpowers.

Over the years, the NBA superheroes began to feel a little more mortal. I visited the USA, attended my first game (Knicks at the Garden, of course), and later, interacted with and interviewed many stars professionally. But despite the cynicism that comes with age over most of the world’s magic, the NBA remained something pure and special. Something shudh, as we would say in Hindi. Something that, back home to us in India, was still a beautiful galaxy far, far away.

Once the NBA opened its first office in India, in Mumbai, in 2011, the pace of the game’s growth here took a mid-2000s-Suns-esque boost. NBA and WNBA players of the past and present visited multiple times a year, peaking with Kevin Durant dropping in 2017 for hyped-up visit, freshly minted with his first title and Finals MVP.

Meanwhile, the stream had flown the other way, too, and some of India infiltrated the NBA. Most prominently, Vivek Ranadive became the first Indian-born person to become a majority owner of the NBA when he bought the Sacramento Kings. Immediately, Ranadive began to share his vision of one day taking the Kings back to his birth-city—Mumbai—for an exhibition game.

For those of us watching and covering the sport from back here, this idea barely seemed feasible. India didn’t have the infrastructure or the market ready for an NBA game—even a mere preseason matchup. Ranadive’s vision, I had thought, was stuff of science-fiction.

*

And then, the stars came within reach.

Early in the 2018-19 season, the NBA officially made the surreal announcement: The first-ever NBA India Games would be held in Mumbai on October 4-5, 2019 in Mumbai between the Kings and the Pacers. One team, owned by an Indian-American. The other, interested in reaching out to the Indian market—and, of course, it doesn’t hurt the Pacers to have ‘India’ in their name.

The news was a pataakha for us Indian NBA fan, blowing our minds like fireworks. The long-foretold day was near.

The NBA had, of course, been holding preseason (and some regular season) games around the world for years, all over Europe, South and Central America, Asia, and the special Africa Games. In Asia alone, the league had become a preseason staple in the rabid China market, as well as in Japan, Philippines, and more.

The league’s landing in India had seemed both inevitable and impossible—before it became a reality.

Mumbai—formerly Bombay—is the perfect choice to host the event. It is the country’s financial capital, of course. But it is also seeped in local hoops history, featuring some of the country’s most iconic courts, tournaments, and legends of the game. It’s India’s largest city, densely traffic-jammed with the country’s diverse population, and the home of Bollywood, readymade for all the drama and action that the NBA promises to present.

*

Basketball existed before the NBA, and India was a colonised country and collection of states hundreds of years prior to that. But coincidence married these two histories together. The Basketball Association of America (BAA) was founded as the BAA in June 1946, and its first season was held from November 1946 to April 1947. In August 1947, India won its independence from British rule.

Two years later, the BAA and National Basketball League (NBL) merged to form what is known as today’s NBA. During the course of the first ‘proper’ NBA season in early 1950, India’s constitution went into effect, officially forming the Republic. This was also the year that India’s own governing body—the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) was born, and independent India’s first basketball team, captained by the late Ranbir Chopra, participated in the 1951 Asian Games.

But ever since, India’s has merely remained a reserve on world’s basketball’s roster, barely able to register a blimp in hoops history. While the NBA eventually became the most popular and powerful basketball league in the world, India had to settle for fragments and scratches of success. We finished fourth in the FIBA Asia Championship once, in the 70s. In 1980, our men’s team took part in the Moscow Olympics, only because the USA and a number of its allies pulled out of participating in Russia. A few of our players got to play in low-tier pro leagues around the world. In 2014, we defeated China on their home soil at the FIBA Asia Cup.

Yet, India remained a potential pot of gold for the NBA, with its rising youth population and the prevalence of basketball around the country, albeit as a much smaller sport compared to the awning shadow of cricket and others. The NBA continued to increase its India presence, and we had our big moment of cheer when Satnam Singh became the first Indian to be drafted—by the Dallas Mavericks—in the 2015. The 7-footer never played in the NBA itself, but we felt that it was the beginning of something big.

Soon, the NBA launched an elite NBA India Academy to hone more talented prospects, and eventually, take the next big leap after Satnam.

The announcement of the NBA India Games brought the two varying histories into confluence. A couple of days after I saw that TV commercial and spoke to my uncle, NBA-India relations took another unexpected, surreal step. At a reception event for India’s Prime Minster Narendra Modi in Houston, US President Donald Trump jokingly suggested in front of the thousands gathered that he could show up to Mumbai for the historic preseason games. A couple of questionable world leaders had used the NBA’s moment to inflate US-India relations—and suddenly, everyone from my local samosa-wallah to my other uncles and aunties understood that this ‘NBA’ thing—whatever it was—was a pretty big deal.

*

And then, there’s the matter of the Games themselves. Remember, that after all this shor-sharaba and hoopla, this is a mere preseason contest. In true sporting terms, it counts for nothing. In the absence of the injured Victor Oladipo, there will be no All Stars on the floor. In a country where casual fans only know names like LeBron, Curry, Durant, and—like everyone else—are learning to pronounce Antetokounmpo—there is little global name-recognition that the Pacers or the Kings can offer.

Nevertheless, both these teams are going to be stacked with exciting, young players, and even the easy-preseason flow will offer a brand of basketball far higher than ever witnessed in India. Fresh out of the FIBA World Cup experience, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nemanja Bjelica, Myles Turner, Harrison Barnes, Domantas Sabonis, and Isaiah Pineiro will all likely feature at the games. Barnes is already familiar, having spent a week in India earlier in the summer to promote the upcoming contests. Bogdanovic, in particular, was one of the breakout stars of the FIBA WC, and will hopefully continue his momentum in Mumbai.

Additionally, several other enticing players from both teams like De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III, Harry Giles, Malcolm Brogdon, TJ Warren, and more will potentially suit up in the two matchups. The Kings’ young core in particular is being slated for a major leap, and the games in Mumbai could be their first chance of stating their intent for the upcoming season.

Expectations will be high for these games from the in-arena crowd at the NSCI Dome in Mumbai, as well as all those around the country who will watch the games on live TV; but we’ll have to remember that most preseason games are duds, rarely producing moments of magic or note, and rarely showcasing a team’s true form or shape before the start of the regular season.

But even these ‘meaningless’ exhibitions will mean a lot to the players who participate: they’ll get to be a part of history, and stake their flag in unchartered NBA grounds. Those Indians unaware of the NBA—my uncle-types—will hear about Fox and Turner long before James and Curry. Who knows, maybe impressionable young minds—like my friends and I—will re-enact Pacers and Kings like the way we did with the Spurs and Knicks twenty years ago.

Some of the most intriguing action will take place on the sidelines and off-court. Being in the heart of the Bollywood film industry, the game is sure to be star-studded with some of the biggest Indian celebrities. Indian athletes, including national basketball players, coaches, and more will be in attendance, too. Every bigwig industrialist or sponsor present will co-opt this moment for their own. And true fans are coming from all over the country to have this unlikely dream come true.

The players and teams are going to participate in off-court charity and fan interaction events around the city. The league’s commissioner, a handful of NBA legends, and international media will gather. And Mumbai’s returning native son—Kings owner Ranadive—will get to shine in the spotlight of helping make this possible.

*

It's pretty surreal for me, personally, to see how far things have come since my childhood. NBA fandom in India had felt like a secret society, a code with which only those ‘in the know’ communicated. Living in smaller cities in India isolated me even further. Behind the hazy of the night sky, the stars were barely visible.

But the haze has cleared away now, and the entire galaxy is shining brightly above us. Although basketball remains a smaller sport in relative terms, the NBA’s popularity is already something that a younger-me could’ve never anticipated.

Of course, the league still has a long way to go to catch up with other sporting brands, like Cricket’s IPL or even foreign football/soccer leagues like the EPL or La Liga. The media in India often talks about waiting for our own ‘Yao Ming Moment’, for the day that an Indian player makes an impact in the NBA, and thus, propels the market back home. India, of course, still doesn’t have its own full-time pro basketball league and our national team still isn’t making any waves in the global game.

And yet, with the upcoming NBA India Games, we’ve taken a historic step forward. If it’s just a preseason game, if it doesn’t really matter, then it’s just about to become the most meaningful meaningless game ever.

October 3, 2019

Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings, and more NBA legends land in Mumbai for first-ever NBA India Games


When I started this blog, almost exactly ten years ago, the mission was to capture the spirit and stories behind Indian basketball, the NBA, and any fringe ideas that somehow connected the NBA with India. There weren't many of the latter. I wrote back then about trips made by Kevin Garnett and Robert Parish to India, which flew so under the radar in the pre-social-media explosion that hardly anyone in the nation knew about it. I wrote about Dikembe Mutumbo showing up at the St. Dominic Savio High School in Mumbai with disbelieving excitement. I celebrated little-known clips, like the NDTV interviewing Shaq at the All Star Game about India, because there was so little other content to look for.

10 years later, with a slew of NBA activities in India including grassroots programmes, the elite Academy, India-specific programming, and superstar visits, we have come far away from those early days. This weekend, the NBA will host the first-ever NBA India Games at the NSCI Dome in Mumbai, two preseason matchups between the Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings. It's the first time in history that entire NBA teams are in India, on our home soil, to play in an official NBA match - even though it's only an exhibition.

For years, I've kept a running list of every NBA player to ever have set foot in India, from Garnett in the mid-2000s to Kevin Durant a couple of years ago, and dozens upon dozens more in between. It was a growing list, but still manageable, as player visits happened a few times a year, and with some research, I had been able to keep track of every such event, organised by the NBA or otherwise.

Now, the cup runneth over. Landing in Mumbai this week, some of the players include: Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, TJ McConnell, Aaron Holiday, Naz Mitrou-Long, CJ Wilcox, Justin Holiday, TJ Leaf, Doug McDermott, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, TJ Warren, Goga Bitazde (Pacers), Bogdan Bogdanovic, Yogi Ferrell, De'Aaron Fox, Kyle Guy, Buddy Hield, Cory Joseph, Trevor Ariza, Marvin Bagley III, Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica, Richuan Holmes, Isaiah Pineiro, Caleb Swanigon, Dwayne Dedmon (Kings) and many more. In addition, the coaching and executive staff of the two teams include more former NBAaers, such as Nate McMillan, Popeye Jones (Pacers), Vlade Divac, and Luke Walton (Kings). This is the second India trip for Barnes and Divac.

Additionally, NBA legends Detlef Schrempf (formerly Mavericks, Pacers, SuperSonics, Trail Blazers) and Jason Williams (formerly Kings, Grizzlies, Heat, Magic) are also in India as 'icons' of the Pacers and Kings respectively.

There will be many more NBAers setting food in India for this big game, and I'll make sure to keep track and update our (massive) list accordingly. For now, make sure to enjoy the game and follow my daily updates all week on NBA India's official website. Follow me on Twitter @hoopistani for real-time updates live from Mumbai from all the major events.

We've come so far for NBA and India - and hopefully, we have a lot further to go!

October 1, 2019

Japan win fourth consecutive title at FIBA Women’s Asia Cup in Bengaluru; winless India finish last in Division A


The Japanese dominance over Asian basketball continued last week at the 2019 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup in Bengaluru, India. With a thrilling comeback win over China in the final on Sunday, September 29 at the city’s Sree Kanteerava Stadium Japan completed an impressive four-peat at the championship, cementing their supremacy over Asian basketball.

Hosts India also took part in the tournament but ended the week in disappointment, losing all of their group games and losing the 7th/8th place qualifier to end their Division A appearance at last place.

The final of the tournament was held between long-time Asian rivals Japan and China on Sunday. Japan, who had won the 2017 title with a final win over Australia in dramatic fashion, once again had to muster all of their heroics to complete a comeback and squeak past the Chinese squad. China commanded a 10-point lead in the first half, but slowed down to start the third quarter as Japan began their comeback run. Japan took a lead early in the second and held on for the 71-68 win. Nako Motohashi led all scorers for Japan with 24. Xu Han scored 18 for China in the loss.

Earlier the same day, Australia blew past Korea 98-62 to win the bronze medal game. Rebecca Allen led the Aussies with a game-high 20 in the victory.

Japan’s Nako Motohashi was named the tournament’s MVP for her performances.

After winning the 2017 Division B title in dramatic fashion and making their comeback to Division A, India sent a young squad that hoped to retain its position in the higher throes of Asian hoops. Coached by Zoran Visic and captained by Rajapriyadarshani Rajaganapathi, India were drawn in Group A of the division, along with Japan, Korea, and Chinese Taipei.

Playing against the powerhouse Japanese, India had no shot in their first game, barely being able to score against Japan’s stifling defense on one end, and finding it impossible to contain Japan’s offensive prowess. Led by Himawari Akaho (23) and Sanae Motokawa (16), Japan cruised to a 103-27 win.

India started with more purpose in Game 2 against Korea, taking an early 12-2 lead and holding a slim advantage after the first quarter. But the tables turned when Korea raced to a 24-6 second quarter run which punctured all of India’s spirits. Korea secured a 97-62 win, led by An Jin’s 21 points.

In the final group game against Chinese Taipei, it was India’s weak start that doomed them, as their opponents took a 28-10 lead after just the first ten minutes. India improved after halftime, but Taipei already had a huge advantage by then, as they won the game 87-58.

Last in their group, India’s mission now was to defeat Group B last-ranking team – Philippines – to ensure that they didn’t fall out of the Division. Alas, it was another weak start by India, as Philippines took a 12-point lead early in the game. India made the game close around halftime, but Philippines heated up from behind the three-point line and took advantage of India’s mistakes to win 92-78. Janine Pontejos scored 18 for the Philippines, while India’s Shireen Limaye had a team’s tournament-best 23 points.

The result left India with a 0-4 record at eighth place. As per FIBA rules, India are supposed to be replaced in the 2010 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup by the winners of Division B. But the Division B event hasn’t been held this year, and if it stays this way, India may keep its place in the higher division after all.

Limaye was India’s best player at the tournament, leading the team in scoring (12.3 ppg), assists (3.5 apg), minutes per game (28 mpg) and overall efficiency rating. There were some decent performances by Jeena Skaria and Navaneetha PU, but neither were consistent enough through the course of the tournament.

For a more in-depth story behind India’s unsuccessful campaign at this event, read my article on Firstpost, published on Monday, September 30.

Final Standings
  • 1. Japan
  • 2. China
  • 3. Australia

All Tournament Team
  • Nako Motohashi (Japan)
  • Yuki Miyazawa (Japan)
  • Shao Ting (China)
  • Han Xu (China)
  • Rebecca Allen (Australia)

September 27, 2019

Hoopdarshan Episode 84: NBA India Games with Yash Matange



On October 4-5, the basketball story in India will take a massive leap with the historic, first-ever NBA India Games: two preaseason matches between the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings in Mumbai. Hoopdarshan is here to break it all down: Co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok welcome NBA India's Content Producer Yash Matange to talk about the lead-up to this event, the two participating teams, off-court events, all the India/Hindi connections, and much more.

Matange writes and edits content for NBA India and made his second Hoopdarshan appearance. In this episode, we also spoke briefly about India at the FIBA Asia Women's Cup.



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...

September 26, 2019

Prasanna Jayasanakar - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame


Indian basketball has been blessed with several queens over its history, leaders who have broken the gender barrier in the game to excel, and help a generation of players after them excel, too. One of these leaders is Prasanna Jayasanakar, the legendary player and coach from Kerala and Southern Railways, who is today's addition into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

As the story goes, Prasanna was originally drafted to play badminton at the Sports School in Kannur, Kerala, but because there was a shortage of players in the basketball team, she switched sports. Soon, her career took off. She started playing for Kerala in 1982 with the sub-junior and junior nationals, and was in the state's senior team from 1983 onwards, while she was still a teenager. From 1985 to 1996, she played for the powerhouse Southern Railway team in Chennai, a relationship that sealed her post-playing future, too.

Prasanna played for India's senior women's team from 1984-1996, and one of the highlights of her international career was captaining Team India at the 1990 FIBA Asian Basketball Championship in Singapore.

Post-retirement, Prasanna has been one of the most influential coaches in India, primarily at her position with the influential Southern Railway team, which contributed to the Indian Railways unit that has dominated India's women's basketball for several decades. Among other stars, Prasanna helped nurture the talents of Indian basketball great (and Hoopistani Hall of Famer) Geethu Anna Rahul. As player and coach, she has won dozens of medals in National Championships, Inter-Railway tournaments, All India University championships, Federation Cups, and more. Prasanna was also one of the only female coaches in the short-term men's pro league in India, the UBA.

Prasanna's husband, Jayasankar Menon, is also a legendary basketballer and a Hall of Famer. Together they were behind the Professional Basketball Academy (PBA) in Chennai. Through the course of her career, Prasanna has been given several individual honours, such as the GV Raja Award. She has been involved for a handful of times as a selector and observer for India's women's national championship and has served in the coaching staff of India's national teams.

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

September 23, 2019

Hoopdarshan Episode 83: Jeena Skaria, FIBA Asia Women, and FIBA World Cup


On the eve of the 2019 FIBA Women's Asia Cup in Bengaluru, India's star player Jeena Skaria joins us on Hoopdarshan. In an interview with co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok, Skaria tells us about India's strategy in the tougher Division A of the tournament, the top players to watch out for, and playing pro in Australia - an experience that changed her life both on and off the court.

Jeena Skaria is one of the most talented and accomplished basketball players in India today. The Kerala native has graduated from being a teenage phenom to the best player in the women's national team. She was one of the top performers of the squad that won Division B of the FIBA Women's Asia Cup two years ago. Since then, she has seen a rare dream come true, becoming only the third Indian women to play pro overseas - in Australia for the Ringwood Hawks. Now, Skaria is back to India's national team, and the team is back in Division A, for the tournament in Bengaluru.

In addition to our interview with Skaria, Kaushik and Karan deep-dive in Episode 83 into the results of the FIBA World Cup, including the greatness of Ricky Rubio, the surprise rise of Argentina, and the fall of Team USA.



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...

India ready to take part in 2019 FIBA Women's Asia Cup: Roster, Schedule, and more!


After winning Division B in dramatic fashion in 2017, Team India will return upgraded in Division A of the 2019 FIBA Women's Asia Cup. The tournament is being held once again in familiar surroundings for Team India, at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru from September 24-29, 2019.

The 2017 champions Japan will return with hopes of completing an incredible four-peat of this tournament. Among the other favourites in this event are Australia, China, and Korea.

Grouping for Division A
  • Group A: Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei, India.
  • Group B: Australia, China, New Zealand, Philippines.

India's Roster
  • Rajapriyadarshini Rajaganapathi (captain)
  • Anmolpreet Kaur
  • Shireen Limaye
  • Barkha Sonkar
  • Navaneetha Pattemane Udayakumar
  • Anjana Prasannan Geetha
  • Stephy Nixon
  • Bhandavya Hemmige Mahesha
  • Shruthi Arvind
  • Madhu Kumari
  • Jeena Skaria
  • Lopamudra Thimmaiah Kokkalera
  • Head Coach: Zoran Visic
  • Assistant Coach: Shiba Maggon
  • Assistant Coach: Kuldeep Singh Brar

India's Preliminary Stage Schedule - all timings IST
  • Sep 24, 2019 - Japan vs. India - 8 PM
  • Sep 25, 2019 - India vs. Korea - 8 PM
  • Sep 26, 2019 - Chinese Taipei vs. India - 8 PM

September 18, 2019

Sajjan Singh Cheema: Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame


From dominating on the basketball court to substituting into a career in politics, Sajjan Singh Cheema has always been used to the public eye, especially in his home-state of Punjab. Now, the former star adds a new accolade into his book: the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Cheema was born in the Dabulian village in Punjab in 1957, in the Kapurthala district which has been one of the hotbeds of Indian basketball since the introduction of the game. He studied in the Sports College in Jalandhar, and it was only at age 19 that he began to turn towards basketball, with an inter-university tournament in Jaipur.

Cheema quickly became a dominant player in the state, and eventually broke into the national team. He played for India in the FIBA Asia Basketball Championship teams in 1981, 1983, and 1985, and represented the country in the Asian Games in 1982. In 1983, he was honoured with the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Award. He retired from the game in 1994, and in 1999, he joined a select list of basketball players to win the Arjuna Award, one of the highest honours for Indian athletes.

Cheema comes from a family of basketball players, as his brothers Balkar Singh and Gurmeet Singh and his cousin Kuldeep Singh Cheema also played at the international level. His daughter Guneet Kaur has played for Punjab at the youth national level.

Off-the-court, Cheema turned his attentions further into public service, serving as an SP (Superintendent of Police) with Punjab Police and additionally the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) in Ludhiana. In 2017, he entered politics contesting from an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ticket from the Sultanpur Lodhi contituency in the 2017 Assembly Elections. He left AAP to join the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) later that same year.

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




September 13, 2019

Parvez Irani: Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame


Another member of India's historic basketball team of 1980, the first and only to play in the Summer Olympics in Moscow, has been added to the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame: Parvez Irani.

From Cuttack in Odisha, the 5-10 guard Irani went on to become an important player for Team India in the 70s and 80s. He appeared in all seven of India's matches at the Moscow Olympics in 1980 and averaged 3.4 points per contest.

After retiring from the game in the mid-80s, Irani served the Sports Authority of India (SAI) as a coach for thirty years, from where he finally retired in 2017. Irani's son Xerxes has found fame in his own right as a star for the TV show "Roadies". Irani also has the claim for being one of the rare players of Zoroastrian background to represent Team India.

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

September 11, 2019

Rajesh Sethi named new Managing Director of NBA India


The National Basketball Association (NBA) on Wednesday, September 11 named Rajesh Sethi, an accomplished media and technology executive with more than 20 years of experience in leading and managing global brands, as Managing Director of NBA India. Sethi, who begins with the NBA on Sept. 12, will report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum.

Sethi succeeds Yannick Colaco as NBA India's MD, who stepped down from his position in March.

As MD, Sethi will oversee the league's basketball and business development initiatives in India and will be supported by the region's senior leadership team.

Most recently, Sethi was with the Essel Group, a leading business conglomerate in India, where he held various leadership roles with the group's entities, including SITI Networks, Zee Entertainment and Ten Sports. Since 2017, he has been the Chief Business Transformation Officer of SITI Networks, one of India's leading cable television systems operators, and he spearheaded the creation of multiple new offerings for SITI Networks' consumers. Prior to SITI Networks, Sethi was the CEO of Distribution and Sports Business at Zee Entertainment. Additionally, he was the CEO of Ten Sports, a subsidiary of Zee Entertainment, where he oversaw the global sports broadcasters' sports channels. Earlier in his career, Sethi was the CEO and Region Director for South East Asia of Allianz Global, a specialty insurance provider, and held executive roles with General Electric in India and Tata Motors.

"Rajesh's extensive experience in the media and broadcast industry combined with his leadership and management abilities make him the ideal person to lead our efforts in India," said Tatum. "We look forward to working with Rajesh to help take basketball and the NBA to new heights in India at a time when the game has never been more popular across the country."

Sethi joins NBA India at perhaps the most crucial time-frame in their short history. In less than a month, the league will host an NBA preseason game in Mumbai for the first time, landing the Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers for two matchups in Mumbai on October 4-5. The game promises to bring unprecedented attention to basketball and the NBA's operations in India. With so much stake from the NBA's high demands of operations from abroad, Sethi and the rest of the organisation will have the responsibility of ensuring that the ball bounces the right way.

"I am thrilled to join the NBA at such an exciting time," said Sethi. "The league has done a wonderful job of growing its presence in India, and I look forward to working with all our partners and colleagues here as we explore new ways to increase basketball participation and engagement."

September 10, 2019

2019 Sub-Junior Nationals: Mizoram Boys and Tamil Nadu rise to capture the gold in Cuttack


Sometimes the best thing about basketball is watching a dominant force unleash its dominance, over and over again, executing the game to its most beautiful conclusion. At other times, the joy of the game is in the underdog stories, of surprises, of being witness to a 'Cinderella' run to the title, in David defeating Goliath.

Both these instances were on showcase over the past week at the 46th Sub Junior (U14) National Basketball Championship for Boys and Girls, held in Cuttack (Odisha) from September 3-9. Organised by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and the Odisha Basketball Association, the Sub-Junior Nationals featured participation from 24 boys' and 25 girls' teams from around India. At the finals on Monday, Mizoram (Boys) became the 'Cinderella' story, winning the gold, while Tamil Nadu (Girls) captured the top spot after last year's runners-up finish. The championship was held in Cuttack's Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium and the Indoor Complex in Barabati

The girls' final was a rematch of last year's event in Kangra (Himachal Pradesh), with Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra squaring up again in the finals. Maharashtra, the reigning champions, stayed on course on Monday as well, as both teams started with a tie after the first quarter and TN only held a slim, 32-30 lead at halftime. But it was the incredible third period explosion by TN that proved to be the differene, as they outscored Maharashtra 33-13, and then put the nail in the coffin in the fourth to run away with a 85-67 victory. Antheya Daisy of TN was the best individual performer of the day, scoring 31 in the win. Juana Chrisolin added 18 points in TN's winning effort.

The boys' finale featured two very different teams: the favourites, Punjab, who had been dominating every level of the game with their size and athleticism; and the relative newcomers from the basketball-mad northeast state of Mizoram, who had surprised bigger teams en route to the final with their speed and shooting. The neck-to-neck game remained close for three quarters, as Punjab held a slim 35-34 advantage. But it was the Mizos who ended in style, hitting the big baskets and the getting the biggest stops in the fourth quarter to edge away to a 51-46 win, their third in Sub-Junior nationals history. Emmanuel of Mizoram led all scorers with 17 points.

The third-place match-ups of the losing semi-finalists were also held on Monday. In the boys' game, Maharashtra and Haryana went the stretch in a close contest, and the Maha boys eventually sneaked away with a 75-73 victory. Shaik Taufiq scored 26 to pace Maharashtra, while Kaushal of Haryana had a game-high 28.

In the girls' game, Karnataka had an easy ride against Delhi, routing their opponents 56-34 to return home with a bronze medal.

Final Scores
    Girls: Tamil Nadu (Antheya Daisy 31, Juana Chrisolin 18) bt. Maharashtra 85-67 [18-18, 14-12, 33-13, 20-22].
Boys: Mizoram (Emmanuel 17) bt. Punjab 51-46 [12-13, 10-8, 12-14, 17-11].
Final Standings

Girls
  • 1. Tamil Nadu
  • 2. Maharashtra
  • 3. Karnataka
  • 4. Delhi
  • 5. Kerala

Boys
  • 1. Mizoram
  • 2. Punjab
  • 3. Maharashtra
  • 4. Haryana
  • 5. Tamil Nadu

September 8, 2019

Radhey Shyam: Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame


Wherever he suited up, success followed close behind. An Olympian, a national team star, an Arjuna Awardee, and a scoring machine, Rajasthan's late, legendary baller Radhey Shyam has been inducted into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Originally from the village of Sri Madhopur in Rajasthan, Shyam went on to become a star for Services and an important player for India's national team in the 1970s. The 6-4 forward found his career highlight when he was named into Team India for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, India's only basketball appearance in the Olympic stage. Shyam was one of the best players in the team, averaging 15.3 ppg in seven games for India in Moscow, which was second-highest for Team India and 19th in scoring overall at the tournament. The overmatched Indian side lost all their contests, but Shyam finished the group stage with a flourish, tallying 32 points in a loss to Brazil.

Shyam also played for India at the 1982 Asian Games, held on his adopted home turf of New Delhi. India finished the tournament at 8th place. The same year, Shyam was awarded with the Arjuna Award for outstanding individual achievement in national sport.

Shyam passed away in his native village - Sri Madhopur - in 2006 at age 53.

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




September 7, 2019

Biopic of India's first NBA draftee Satnam Singh in production by Zee Studios


Satnam Singh is, arguably, figuratively and literally, the biggest name in Indian basketball. Raised in a nondescript village in Punjab, the young man grew to be a 7-footed beast with tantalising basketball potential, won a scholarship in one of the world's finest sports academies, and eventually, made history by becoming the first Indian to be drafted in the NBA, the world's finest basketball league. Although he never played for the NBA, Satnam played pro in the G-League and in Canada, and the 24-year-old continues to represent the Indian national team.

His incredible story, right up to the point of the night he was drafted, was documented by Roman Gackowski's memorable Netflix documentary One in a Billion in 2016. Now, for the first time, Satnam's journey will be told in fictionalised motion picture, the first-ever basketball biopic in India.

Production company Zee Studios recently announced that they will produce an original digital film based on the inspirational journey of Satnam Singh. The film will be available to be streamed "soon" (no confirmation date given yet) on their on-demand streaming platform, Zee5.

"In our country where basketball has miles to go before it enjoys the same kind of popularity cricket does, it's time we encourage other sports" said Ashima Avasthi, Head and VP, Zee Studios Originals. "Satnam Singh's extremely difficult yet heart-warming journey needs to be told and celebrated. We are excited to work with him on this film! With the explosion of digital content consumption in India, there's a huge market for digital first content, both films and web shows. We are working towards producing a mixed portfolio of premium digital content—web shows and films—across languages and genres for all digital platforms."

Aparna Acharekar, Programming Head, ZEE5 India said: "We are constantly on the lookout for engaging content that our audiences will enjoy and appreciate. This is a special film that we are creating with Zee Studios. An inspiring story that talks about the talented basketball player Satnam Singh's journey, hustle, struggle and triumphs."

Satnam is rumoured to be assisting with the development of the film. There has been no information released yet about the director or cast of the movie. Casting the big man himself will, of course, be a challenge: Satnam is 7-foot-2 and 130 kgs, with a very specific body type and international level basketball skills. It is difficult enough to find actors to play-act athletic capabilities of sports-persons; but in Satnam's case, the physical dimensions are going to be yet another challenge.

"It feels unreal that a film is being made on me!" said Satnam, regarding the news. "As a sportsman, I have always loved films based on sports, and I feel honoured that this film is my story. What excites me most is that this is a basketball film, the first of its kind. I hope that the film will boost the game and more kids will want to try it out. There is huge potential for the game to grow in India if only more people come out in support of it."

Sports biopics in India are a lucrative business. As a matter of fact - outside of cricket, of course - films about Indian sports end up performing much better in the eyes of the common public than the sports themselves. The formula has been devised and repeated for films like Dangal, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, Paan Singh Tomar, Azhar, and many more in recent years. With the arrival of streaming entertainment, the options of sporting stories in cinema will get its inevitable boost.

This is of course, exciting news for Indian hoops for Satnam to join (in a smaller, digital way) the ranks of other great Indian athletes with biopics. The film will be facing the challenge of following up the excellent One in a Billion, which followed Satnam to his village, to the IMG Academy, to NBA trials, and to the draft, and featured interviews with several luminaries involved with the game including Mark Cuban, Vivek Ranadive, and Adam Silver. I was honoured to be featured in the film, too, relaying my experiences of observing Satnam's journey from close quarters over the years.

I fear that, unless somehow perfectly cast, the issue of size and imitable skills in whatever actor cast to play Satnam will prove to be a major hindrance for the upcoming biopic. Beyond that, I hope that the writers and director ensure to get the basketball background information correct for his film, along with Satnam's intriguing off-court struggles and successes.