March 31, 2010

'Hoops for Health' hoping to make a difference beyond sport

Sport is one of the best ways to unite people together. Whether it was the 2004 Indian cricket team's "Friendship Tour" of Pakistan following years of mistrust of the Kargil war, or the conflict-ridden Palestine hosting its first ever international football game in 2008, sport can provide a way to rehabilitate those in need, find common ground between conflicting cultures, and provide a healthy, competitive alternative to the harsher realities of life.

One such effort has been by the 'Hoops for Health' basketball school that has been making a difference in the lives children under extremely hostile conditions in Kashmir, breaking language, cultural, and national barriers. There is no better way to rehabilitate some of these youngsters who have already been through atrocities in their young lives than through lessons and activities of sport. The project is a collaboration between basketball school jdBasketball and independent, non-profit organization Child Nurture and Relief (CHINAR).

jdBasketball is the brainchild of American basketball coach and entrepreneur JD Walsh, who has spent several years in India coaching basketball as well as using the game as a vehicle for social change.

CHINAR is an organization working for the psychosocial rehabilitation of orphaned and vulnerable children in conflict areas. They operate in the conflicted Kashmir area with a mission to "to provide a stable and nurturing environment for children in need, which encourages and equips them to reach their highest potential and effectively meet challenges in life."

In 2007, CHINAR began working with the jdBasketball to conduct a 3 year basketball programme, 'Hoops for Health'. The event garnered national attention, bringing to light the problem and this new innovation solution for social change. Hoops for Health was awarded the Nike/Ashoka Foundation Changemaker Award for using basketball to affect social change in their community.

This year, 'Hoops for Health' has been entered into nomination for the Beyond Sport awards. Beyond Sport is a global organisation that promotes, develops and funds the use of sport to create positive social change across the world - the awards programme provides support worth $1 million annually to projects across the world that use sport to address issues within their communities.

For their work in Kashmir, 'Hoops for Health' has been entered for awards in two categories: the Sport for Health Award and the UNICEF Sport for Education Award. Please click on these links to comment your support on's efforts.

Other entries from India in the Beyond Sport categories this year are Rural Challengers- an audacious initiative and Project Green Hands

The last date for the 2010 Beyond Sport Awards entries is April 16, 2010. A shortlist of the nominations will be revealed in May, and the winners of the awards will be unveiled at the Beyond Sport Summit from September 27-30 2010 in Chicago.

Dikembe Mutombo, Former NBA Player and Founder, Dikembe Mutomobo Foundation: "Meeting all the inspirational people behind the sport and development projects shortlisted for the Beyond Sport Awards was a truly memorable experience. If we can get more people to follow the lead of these initiatives that we saw first-hand at the Summit then we can create real social impact across the world."

I've closely followed JD Walsh's efforts in India and hope that his work with CHINAR and the children in Kashmir can be boosted with much-needed support if the programme is to win a Beyond Sport Award.

Read about JD Walsh's Slumdog Basketball initiative in the Mumbai slums.

March 30, 2010



It's 2007, and I'm playing ball at the Royal Park court in Leeds. We haven't yet started a game - my friend Zyman and I are just shooting around at one of the four baskets on the outdoor court. Before taking every wild, ill-advised three-pointer, we shout out odes to our favourite basketball players, perhaps for inspiration, but mostly because its goddamn funny.

"Kobe!" says Zyman.

"Hibachi!" I shout. After nine bricks I finally score a swish. Gilbert Arenas is watching.

It's 2008. Arenas has played only eight games the whole season due to a knee injury. The Wizards play the Cavs in the playoffs, but with his skills limited, Arenas is barely able to make a difference and save his team from making a first round exit.

It's the year 2004-2007, and the world is at the height of ArenaMania. Playing in his best years with the Washington Wizards, Arenas was an All Star in all three seasons. He led the Wizards to the playoffs in 2005, 2006, and 2008, and at one point, had the team looking like amongst the best in the East. He averaged 25.5 ppg in 2004-05, 29.3 in 2006-06, and 28.4 in 2006-07. He scored a franchise record 60 points (with 8 assists and 8 rebounds) against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in an overtime victory at the Staples Centre, including an NBA record 16 points in overtime. He was so ruthless in those years, that especially after that one game, Kobe friggin Mamba Bryant called him "cold-blooded".

It's now 2009 - The season that he signed a six-year $111 million contract with the Wizards - Arenas missed almost the entire season due to his injuries, and only played two games in the end.

Back to 06-07: Arenas, also known as 'Agent 0', has made 11 of the first 13 buzzer beaters he took in the 2006-07 season, the most amazing of which were game-winners against the Bucks and the Jazz in the space of two weeks. In both situations, Arenas had the ball in the final seconds with the score tied, and in both situations, he decided to shoot a long three. And in both situations, he celebrated the basket even before it went in. Now that's gangsta.

I can never get tired of watching this...

December 24th, 2009: It's two and a half years later, and it is revealed that Arenas had stored unloaded firearms in his locker at the Verizon Centre (the Wizards home-court). In doing so, he not only violated NBA rules against bringing firearms into an arena, but also violated D.C. ordinances as well.

Almost exactly two years prior to that incident, Arenas is voted the best celebrity blogger by the 2007 Weblog Awards. He becomes the world's first blog superstar, and his hilarious and honest writings about life as an NBA superstar make him the most loved and approachable player in the league. He was the player's player, a fan of the game just like every fan that followed him.

Eight days after the story about Arenas having firearms in his locker, it is revealed on January 1, 2010, Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton had unloaded guns in the Wizards' locker room during a Christmas Eve argument regarding gambling debts. The D.C. Metropolitan Police and the U.S. Attorney's office began investigating, and on January 14, 2010, Arenas was charged with carrying a pistol without a license, a violation of Washington D.C.'s gun-control laws.

While the investigation is in process, Arenas continues to take matters lightly, and being famously photographed making finger-gun signs during Wizards pre-game warm-up.

Four years before this incident, while having a career-best season, Arenas begins to shout-out "Hibachi" every time he takes a jump shot. A "hibachi", according to Wikipedia, literally means "fire bowl", and its a traditional Japanese heating device. "In English, however, "hibachi" often refers to small cooking grills typically made of aluminium or cast iron, with the latter generally being of higher quality. Owing to their small size, hibachi grills are popular as a form of portable barbecue." The 6 foot Arenas was a little fire-bowl, ready to burn up anything that came in his way.

I'm jumping to the present now. David Stern, commissioner of the NBA, learns about "Hibachi's" shenanigans and decides to suspend him for the rest of the NBA season. He becomes set to miss 60 games in 2009-2010. The real kicker was this quote added by the commish: "Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game."


In February 2007, Gilbert's fans vote him in as a starter for the Eastern Conference in the 2007 All-Star Game, thus solidifying his position as one of the most popular players in the game. In July 2008, Gilbert Arenas makes his way to the Philippines, where he was damn near worshipped by the basketball-crazy fans.

Pulling a gun on Crittenton wasn't the first time that Arenas played a tasteless prank on a teammate. Go back in time a to 2005 and here comes the funniest and most shocking of recent locker room stories: Arenas actually took a shit in teammate Andray Blatche's shoes - and he got away with it!

March 26, 2010, four days ago, Arenas was convicted of his crimes. He was sentenced to 30 days in a halfway house and two years probation.

Now, let me take you waaay back. It is 2001, the night of the NBA draft, and the talented Mr. Arenas doesn't get picked by any team in the first round. Finally, with the 31st pick, the Golden State Warriors drafted him. With a vendetta against every other team that had overlooked him, Arenas went on a destructive streak, and by the time his second season in the NBA ended, he was named the league's Most Improved Player.

In 2006, now as part of the Wizards, he wasn't picked for the USA team for the FIBA World Championships, his talents and injuries cited as reasons for him to not fit into the team model. He followed the snub with a vengeance, destroying everyone else that came in his way again for the next season.

And in 2009, after only playing 15 regular season games in the last two years, and after being written off by everyone related to the game, Agent 0 started the first two months of the new season with notable performances such as a triple double against the Pacers and 45 points in a win against his former team, the Warriors.

I'm back in 2007 now. Back at the Royal Park Court. Back shooting three-pointers with a "Hibachi" shoutout, and back turning my back to celebrate the baskets even before they go in. My inspiration is Arenas, one of my favourite players, and certainly one of the most perplexing individuals in basketball. It's difficult to like him after all the foolishness and the mistakes, and it's difficult to hate someone like him with such an explosive talent and fan-friendly personality. Maybe that's the reason why he's one of my top five nominees of current NBA players that I would like to see visit India.

He's suffered through a career of downs and each time, has answered them with succesful comebacks. It is long known that Arenas performs best when he plays with a vendetta. In about seven months, at the start of the 2010-11 season, he may have a chance to prove that again. Agent 0 is officially dead - Arenas has joined LeBron to be a #6 next season, but here's hoping that the on-court drive, the swagger, the cold-bloodedness remains the same.

Here's hoping that the Hibachi will be back on fire.

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March 29, 2010

Alexsander Bucan: Bringing in a foreign coach doesn't guarantee that the quality will improve

Krishnakumar KH from Express Buzz interviewed Alexsander Bucan, the head coach of the Indian Men's basketball team, during Coaches Coaching Clinic in Kochi a few weeks ago. Bucan, an experienced Serbian coach, has been in-charge of the Young Cagers for around two years. Here are some excerpts from that interview:

India, says Bucan, has the potential to bloom in the ‘simple’ business of getting through a maze of giant bodies to ram a huge ball through a basket raised high on a pole. Easier said than done, he accepts. But if China, Russia and Iran can do it, so can India, feels the affable Bu­can...

“The Russians and the Chinese are not the biggest of people,” he points out. “But they have tall players in their basketball and volleyball teams. That means they identified talent at an early age and put them through scientific training to produce world-class athletes. The same is possible in India.” But Bucan contends that producing world-class athletes requires an overhaul of the “amateurish system” in India. “It is professionalism that gets you results,” he says. “You need to begin early and find young talent with the right build. Then they need systematic training that includes fitness training, nutritional care and psychology sessions.” The Serb has no doubt India has the talent. “I ha­ve seen many talented players at the school and college levels in India. Some are more gifted th­an the national players. Sadly, most of them drop off the game to further their studies or go looki­ng for jobs. No one is rea­lly interested in leaving everything else behind and concentrating solely on the game.”

“There is no way the team can impro­ve without playing stro­ng opposition regularly,” he says. Further, Bucan is not one to boast without a blueprint — infrastructure, academies, age-gr­oup tournaments, camps, a professional national league at the senior level and cheering crowds.

“Just because you bring in a fo­reign coach, for any ga­me, there is no guarantee the quality will improve,” he says.

However, the national coach is quick to point out the improvement made by the cagers in the past few years. “There has been a big difference in standards in the past two years,” he says. “But the real difference can be made only with long-term strategies. Stress should be laid on the under-16 level to unearth players with potential.”
The most significant achievement during the past two years is the triumph of the Indian under-17 team at the 2008 Asian FIBA 33 championship — which allows just three players per team. It was the first time an Indian basketball team at any level had achieved such a feat. “We beat the Philippines, where basketball is as big as cricket in India,” says Bucan.
Regarding coaching, he feels it is tactical play that requires greater attention once the basics are in place. “We are far behind world-class standards in terms of contact play,” he says. “Also, there has to be more set play than what the players are used to here.”

Read the full article here.

What I found particularly interesting about this interview was Bucan's admittance that bringing in a foreign coach doesn't neccessarily guarantee an improvement. We Indians have historically had a niggling inferiority complex to foreigners, and this is true in sports, too: Gary Kirsten has managed to steadily improve the cricket team, but the credit for that should go to the captain MS Dhoni as much as the coach. Sure, it is neccessary for our coaches to learn new skills and techniques from around the world, but it is also important for the coach to know about local knowledge, playing styles, and conditions, to offer a holistic improvement of the team.

I also hate to say this, but in more cases than not, a positive fact about bringing in a foreign coach is that he or she is free from the political pressures and the corruption at every rung of the ladder that Indian coaches have to suffer through. This freedom tends to insinuate misunderstanding or jealousy amongst their local counterparts who are already used to a certain system, but in the end, the priority is to worry about a degree of professionalism in team selection and play.

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March 26, 2010

Living the Game: The need for a grassroots basketball movement in India

In large pockets of America, basketball is more than a sport — it is a part of everyday life. A basketball court is a social center, basketball shoes are essential fashion accessories, and hip-hop music/culture remains eternally intertwined with the game. In such cultures, “playing ball” is more than being in a professional league, a college tournament, or as part of a fitness regime — “playing ball” starts from the grassroots, it’s a recreational activity, just something to do, something embedded deeply in the lifestyle.

The English, and other Europeans, and South Americans have football — the soccer kind of football — it is for them a recreation, a get-together with friends, the perfect pastime.

In India, our favorite pastime is cricket. Every thin lane, or gullie in India is a cricket pitch, every wooden stick a bat, every round object a ball. It is deeply embedded in modern Indian culture — the majority of Indian societies see children having impromptu cricket matches in their neighborhood, by the ghats of the Ganga, every barren field is a stadium, cricket references and metaphors have become part of everyday speak in the country, and get-togethers in roadside tea-shops only discuss cricket scores.

The result of our addiction with cricket is that it has become the biggest thing in India since Butter Chicken. Cricket apparel rules in athletic stores across the country, the majority of sport news in India is about cricket, and every Indian from every strata of society unites under the banner of cricket. That is why India is now one of the strongest cricket teams in the world, Indian players the world’s best, and the Indian Premier League (IPL) of cricket the world’s richest.

So when the NBA decided to tap the 1.2 billion strong Indian market to popularize basketball, they knew they were up against some tough competition. After launching an NBA-India website, their most recent development has been a deal with rich industrial conglomerate Mahindra Group to launch a recreational league in three Indian cities: Mumbai, Bangalore, and Ludhiana. The league will tip off in a month’s time and will last for seven weeks.

Eventually the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) plans to launch school and college leagues with the NBA’s guidance to promote the sport amongst the youth. When I spoke to BFI president Harish Sharma, he said the idea is to use the school, college, and city recreational league as a launch-pad to eventually develop a professional basketball league in India in three years time.

Yes, these efforts are going to increase urban interest for basketball in India, but will it really influence more people to love basketball the same way they love cricket? Everyone interested in the development of basketball in India (BFI, NBA, and those working for the game on a local level) admit their eventual goal is to make it the second favorite sport in the country, but even for that to happen, the game has to be more culturally ingrained into our lifestyles.

I believe what is really needed is a grassroots movement, a movement to make basketball more than a game but a culture. Why does the NBA, for example, sell so easily in a country like the Philippines? NBA players have created waves in the Philippines for years, including the famous Gilbert Arenas trip a few years ago. The answer: So influenced by Americanism, basketball is part of everyday lifestyle in the Philippines, bringing with it its swagger, the hip-hop culture, and NBA fanaticism.

For India, one such movement to popularize basketball into rural and grassroots lifestyle is the Sumpoorna Basketball School. Sumpoorna is the name of a basketball camp — or like its founder Subhash Mahajan likes to call “a grassroots basketball revolution” — that has been slowly growing in small, rural town of Tumkur in Southern India over the past five years. Driven by a lifelong love of basketball, Mahajan has set up this basketball camp mostly for small town and village youth, which has grown over the years to have taught basketball basics to up to 6,000 youngsters around the rural area, and launched the Sumpoorna Basketball Tournament where dozens of small school and recreational teams compete against each other.

Mahajan, who is from Kapurthala in Punjab, spent nearly three decades as a basketball coach before setting up the Sumpoorna School in 2005. He chose Tumkur, which is a village near the much-larger and richer city of Bangalore, in Karnataka.

“In India, sports and money are not compatible,” Mahajan said, “Unless of course, that sport is cricket. Selling the game of basketball amongst city kids in posh schools might change the commercial culture, but the love of the sport has to come from the grassroots level — it seems that I’m fighting this battle alone.”

“In India, kids below Grade 9 can still be engaged in basketball and taught the basics — unfortunately, after that, they have to turn toward their ‘real life’, their studies, their other career, and basketball fades away.”

Mahajan’s camp is a unique concept for India — it is a summer camp of basketball skills in a rural area. He has spent his own money into a large basketball campus, where he already has three courts and is now investing for 13 more. Kids who join the camp for around five days, where they stay in residence and play ball, all day.

As the awareness and interest for the game has spread, Mahajan has been able to organize large tournaments, and is looking to get larger. “We want to tie up with more schools, especially from the bigger cities, so that they can learn basics. I want them to live the game and not just play it.” A major step that Mahajan is looking to take with Sumpoorna is to invite senior basketball players in India to oversee and promote the Sumpoorna tournaments.

Another unique feature of the Sumpoorna tournaments has been that the games are played without refs. Indian sport has an unfortunate reputation of being shrouded in corruption and bias — and the referees have regularly been the ones footing the blame for unfair calls and pre-meditated results. The injustice was highlighted a little more than a month ago, when the referees and officials were accused of helping the home team at a major national university tournament. At Sumpoorna, the players are expected to resolve the calls amongst themselves, and more often than not, the system works.

“The players from the age 9 onwards are taught to self referee and agree on consensual play,” he said, “It is basketball at its best — the way we played it here forty years ago.”

Mahajan is from an old-school brand of hoop lovers who played the game because they were addicted to the game, and even after his prime, he could never leave the game behind. With Sumpoorna, he has been able to provide a platform through which youngsters can become hoop addicts from an early age, and as they grow, basketball becomes part of their cultural upbringing.

If these efforts are complemented by the popularization of the game in urban India, we could be heading toward a future where basketball could become a more common pastime, and as the number of players grows, the quality of basketball will eventually improve, too.

*First published on on March 25, 2010.

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March 23, 2010

Which current NBA player would you like to see in India?

Aye! So, it's no secret that the NBA is now showing a lot of interest in India, with the Basketball Without Borders programmes, Court Dedications, launch of the site, and of late, the collaboration with Mahindra to launch the new Mahindra-NBA recreational league.

The recreational league, set to be held in Mumbai, Bangalore, and Ludhiana, will be tipping off in Mumbai in mid-April and coming to an end in the first week of June. Rumours are that the NBA is looking to send a current star to India for the finale! This is an exciting oppurtunity not only for NBA stars to get a glimpse of the Indian environment and Indian basketball, but also for our fans to see one of their basketball idols.

NBA players have been to India before, obviously - no disrespect, but enough with the Kyle Korvers and Ronny Turiafs... The biggest stars to have been in India in recent years have been Robert Parish and Dominique Wilkins (both long retired), Baron Davis (who held youth clinics in India) and Kevin Garnett (who came as part of an adidas promotional tour).

We need bigger stars, with a bigger draw - India is a country of 1.2 billion people, and even a small minority of basketball fans here is a gargantuan number. Hell, even the Philipines gets regular All Star visits, including Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, and most-famously, Gilbert Arenas.

So which current NBA star do you want to see come June? Here are my nominations...

1. Kobe Bryant: A no-brainer. The biggest name in basketball today, the champion, Finals MVP. India has been force-fed Kobe and the Lakers for an entire decade, back when Kobe ran with Shaq uptil now, when he runs with Gasol, Artest, Odom, and Bynum. The Lakers as a brand are also one of the most popular teams in India.

2. LeBron James: Trust me, I hate to make this a Kobe-LeBron thing. Kobe-LeBron. LeBron-Kobe. It seems every week there is a minimum of one Cavs or Laker game shown on ESPN/Star India. LeBron James blah blah blah Cleveland Cavaliers blah blah MVP MVP blah blah India loves blah best player in the league.

3. Shaquille O'Neal: I'm serious. Shaq in India will be hilarious. I can just see the photobook in my head: Shaq wearing a turban. Shaq riding an elephant. Shaq doing the bhangra. Shaq dressed up in a dhoti. I don't even feel I need to justify this one. Forget about the fact that Shaq isn't an all world talent anymore, the guy is as famous an NBA name as one can be in India.

4. Dwyane Wade: Wade is my favourite basketball player, and the most talented one outside of Kobe-LeBron (sorry Durant, Dwight, Melo, etc). I'd love to see him visit India, and subsequently, gain more popularity since he is still underrated internationally (shocking!!). The former NBA champion, Finals MVP, and this year's All Star MVP needs more exposure to my fellow countrymen who have otherwise been binging on Laker and Cavalier game - unfortunately, the Heat are just not succesful enough these days for him to make the same kind of waves.

5. Gilbert Arenas: Hey, they really loved him in the Phillipines. And ever since his, umm, gun-slinging incident, a season-long suspension has given "Hibachi" a lot more time in his hands. Maybe he's the only one who's free to come to India. Still, let's not forget that despite the stupidity and the injuries, Arenas remains not only one of the most talented basketball players in the world, but also one of the most approachable. He has a reputation for being fan-friendly and entertaining, and we will definitely welcome that attitude in India. Just leave the guns home - we have enough of our own, thank you.

Honourable Mentions that closely missed this list...

- Allen Iverson: Not officially a "current" player, since he's teamless. Also relatively washed-up, AI still has a legion of fans in this country, thanks to his explosive younger years and Reebok.

- Ron Artest: I would love to see him getting pissed off, when stuck in the Mumbai traffic, another commuter calls him out.

- Steve Nash: All around nice guy, likes football, will teach us a tip or two about offence.

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March 19, 2010

Mega Sports Summit in Mumbai next week

Aiming to create "a sports revolution in the country", sports and entertainment company SE TransStadia will be organizing a massive sports summit, the biggest of its kind in India, in Mumbai, from March 24-25. Amongst the several political and sport-related attendees from around the world will include members of the management board of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs.

Hey, I always knew the Spurs have an eye for great foreign players - Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan isn't exactly American, either (Virgin Islands, actually). Looking for the next big thing by making contacts in India already?

From The Hindu:

Talking about the initiative, Udit Sheth, MD and CEO of TransStadia says “Sport has ceased to be a vocational activity and has emerged as a billion dollar industry. We aim at bringing together a potpourri of global and Indian sports celebrities and administrators, under one roof to come up with ideas to transform Indian sports.”
He adds, "There is tremendous change in the way we look at sports in India. It is on par with any other industry. Innovative sports development events such as the IPL have clearly put sports in a pole position. Unfortunately, Indian sports is divided and fragmented and lacks collective thinking. We need to chart a new path and aim to do that by bringing in the best of talent in sports administration, government, people connected to sports infrastructure and the media on a single platform," says Sheth.

Aside from the Spurs management, other attendees will include Gujrat Chief Minister and World Class Choot Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Maharashtra Ashok Chavan, President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Suresh Kalmadi, Australian cricketer Matthew Hayden, and representatives from the English Premier League.

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March 18, 2010

The fall of Da Kid

Switch on a Boston Celtic game now, and when you see Kevin Garnett struggling to pace up and down the basketball court, getting lost on the offensive end, and failing to match his outward intensity with efficient play, a new NBA fan may be fooled in believing that the thin 6’11” power forward could have ever been better than the 14 points and seven and a half rebounds per game he has averaged this season.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

Slowed by a right knee strain and nearly 34 years of his age, ‘KG’ has unfortunately become a mere shadow of the player that only two years ago was NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, leading the Celtics to an NBA championship in the 2007-08 season. In 15 years in the league, he’s the same player that has averaged 19.9 points and 10.9 rebounds a game. He’s the same player that was the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the 2003-04 season, recording career highs in points (24.2), rebounds (13.9), blocks (2.2), getting 5 assists a game, and leading the league in rebounds. He’s the same player that has been named to every NBA all star game since his second season in the league.

Allow me to re-introduce to you one of the greatest basketball players of the past 15 years, and one of my personal favourites since I first started to watch the NBA: Kevin Garnett, or as he used to be called as a youngster straight out of high school, ‘Da Kid’.

KG is a Celtic now, but he has become to the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise what Michael Jordan is to the Chicago Bulls, what LeBron James is to the Cleveland Cavaliers, what Reggie Miller is to the Indiana Pacers, Gary Payton to the Seattle Supersonics, Dwyane Wade to the Miami Heat, Dominique Wilkins to the Atlanta Hawks, Allen Iverson to the Philadelphia 76ers, and Tim Duncan to the San Antonio Spurs. These players, at least in the contemporary age of basketball, are the faces of the franchise, the first face that pops up in your head when you think of these teams.

Garnett spent 12 long, hard, and exemplarily loyal years with the T-Wolves, taking a below average team to the playoffs for eight straight years from 1997-2004. And below average is right, for except for that successful 2003-04 season, the best players that Garnett played with for the rest of those eight years was Wally Szczerbiak. Wally friggin Szearayaerabziaakkk!!!

The 2003-04 season was wonder for KG, for the T-Wolves got the services of Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell, and besides winning the MVP with this great supporting crew, Garnett took the team to the Western Conference finals for the first time, only to lose out to the ‘Fantastic Four’ Lakers team (Payton, Kobe, Malone, Shaq).

Through these years, what Garnett’s incredible stats didn’t say became part of his credibility. He was one of the league’s most dominating defenders, and his presence in the paint was enough to change the entire attacking philosophy of the opposing team. He was also one of the most passionate players to ever hit a basketball court, wearing every single emotion on his sleeve, so much so that it was impossible to not love his style of play.

Garnett’s influence on the NBA has been massive, both on and off the court. Before star players like Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O’Neal, Tracy McGrady, Amar’’’e Stoudemire, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard did it, Garnett broke a 20 year mould and skipped college to go straight from High School to the pros. And he was a freak of nature – a player that is nearly the height of the centre but with the on the ball skills of a perimeter slasher. KG played between small forward and power forward for most of his career, completely changing the required skill-set of a big man in the league – thanks to Garnett, you could be big and handle the ball like a guard.

And there’s yet another reason why I have a special affinity towards Da Kid: In July 2006, as part of a now-struggling Timberwolves team and constantly bothered by trade rumours, KG came to India as part of a promotional tour for adidas. The tour stopped in several Indian cities, and you can read about it here on KG’s Asia tour blog.

What made this tour special was that, by sheer providence, I happened to be in New Delhi on the day that Garnett was invited to a high school in New Delhi to hand out trophies for a youth basketball tournament in the city. I didn’t miss the opportunity to sneak in and catch sight of him, as he towered over hundreds of admiring school kids and about two dozen personnel and security men.

As KG was ushered by his security out the school gym after the awards ceremony and towards his bus, I ran up near him to have this now legendary conversation!

Me: KG!! KG!! Hey KG, you should join the Knicks man!
KG: [laughter]

Ya, that’s it. Then I took this photo

Almost exactly a year later, Garnett finally did get traded. Not to my hapless Knicks, but to the hapless Boston Celtics to suddenly reignite the fortunes of the legendary franchise. The Celtics were coming off another awful season, winning just 24 games and ending with the second worst record in the league. Even the Timberwolves won eight more games than them.

But this historic trade changed it all. After acquiring Ray Allen from the Sonics, Celtics then traded SIX players (SIX!) for Garnett. That is HALF THEIR ACTIVE ROSTER: Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, and Sebastian Telfair. Oh, and there was more, Celtics gave up a 2009 first round draft pick (top three protected) and a return of Minnesota's conditional first round draft pick, AND cash.

What happened the following season is stuff of folklore. KG joined Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in the Celtics to form a formidable ‘Big Three’, who went on to have the best record in the NBA with 66 wins, posting the best single-season turnaround in NBA history, improving by 42 wins from the previous season. Imagine that! The second-worst team gives up six players for one player, finds another sharp-shooter in Allen, and becomes the best team. It’s incredible.

Of course, this team went on to win the NBA finals against the Lakers, 4-2. After a 13 year hunt, KG’s dream of lifting the NBA trophy finally came true, and with it came what I believe is the most emotional moment in NBA basketball. Watch this video of Garnett’s post-game interview at the end of Game 6, right after the Celtics had blown out the Lakers to win the championship:

What is most amazing is how Garnett completely changed the basketball culture of Boston, getting the team and its fans used to winning again, becoming a top defensive team, and playing as an amazing well-oiled machine, so much so that the rest of the team played like him even when he wasn’t on the court. Garnett was the defensive player of the year that season. The league awarded the MVP to Kobe which seemed to me to be more like a lifetime achievement award, but it really should’ve gone to Garnett for being the single most valuable player in the whole league.

So it goes: it is now two years since that legendary season, and age seems to have finally caught up with KG (and the rest of the Celtics). Thanks mostly to Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen this season they are still one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, but far from the untouchable world beaters that they looked merely two years ago. As of now, the Cavs seem to be the favourites to win the East, and teams like the Magic are looking formidable too. Out West, the Lakers, Nuggets, Mavericks, Jazz are all gunning for the title, and the Celtics have a lot of hard work to do to win another championship.

Da Kid is now an old man (well, in the pro-basketball sense, at least!) and is no more the game changer that he once used to be. He is still an elite talent, of course, but to lift his team to the top of the NBA summit again, KG has to rise to the occasion and prove that he still has what it takes to be amongst the world’s best. Rondo has been amazing this season, and Allen has found his brilliant shooting touch again. Pierce is great, but inconsistent. In the end, I believe it all rests on the Garnett’s broad shoulders.

But as KG himself proclaimed in that famous interview after winning his first championship: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!!!

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March 16, 2010

Good news... now, here's some relief for your typing fingers... Hoopistani is now available on saving you a whole NINE characters of that 'blogspot.' - nevertheless, anyone on will be pleasantly redirected to this new domain.

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March 15, 2010

Reliance and IMG to develop sports facilities and league in India

Closely following on the news that the Mahindra Group will be partnering the NBA to launch a recreational basketball league in three Indian cities, here's another corporate venture in expanding sports not named "cricket" in India: Reliance Industries, led by India's wealthiest Mukesh Ambani is partnering with US-based sports marketing company IMG Worldwide in a joint venture to build sports facilities in India.

IMG-Reliance will also develop professional basketball and football leagues in India, nurture young talent at the academies, and train coaches in these sports as well.

From the Business Standard:

The new company, IMG Reliance, would set up sports facilities across the country to train athletes, thus developing the sports market. The model would be similar to the one followed in mature sports and entertainment markets such as the US. The companies plan to create and operate major sports and entertainment assets.
Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director, Reliance Industries, said: "Development of sports and the sporting culture is a social imperative for India in the 21st century. World-class infrastructure, frugal engineering, technology and scientific coaching are an integral part of development of today's sporting talent globally."

Plans are underway to create an agency to offer 360-degree sports management to celebrities from the world of sports, Bollywood and fashion. IMG would transfer its existing business and assets in the country to the joint venture. These include the Aircel Chennai Open, the Association of Tennis Professionals World Tour event and Lakmé Fashion Week.
However, the ongoing Indian Premier League would stay with IMG and the company's international business and executive team is to manage it.
Ted Forstmann, chairman and CEO of IMG, said: "The performance of Indian athletes on the national and international stage will improve dramatically with the correct development strategies. As a consequence, the commercial performance of sport and entertainment in India will be enhanced."

To quote an article from the The Wall Street Journal, IMG owner Ted Forstmann said that "the venture's ambitions are to create something akin to England's Premier League, for which IMG produces and distributes television programming... People might laugh at that now, but let's see where we are in five years"

The real potential profits from the venture will come from the development of professional sports leagues. The IMG-Reliance venture will look to strike arrangements with India's soccer and basketball federations to help them build these leagues.

Wow. I don't mean neccessarily good wow or bad wow... Just.. Wow...

It's all really happening now isn't it? When the richest Indian company and one of the most succesful sports management companies from the USA get involved in helping to build facilities and a basketball league in India, you know it's more than just empty words.

I've always believed that India's sporting success has always come despite the government. Despite the public sector. So, while the BFI plans and contemplates and slowly trudges towards starting a pro basketball league in the country, here come Ambani and Forstmann with a lot more money and a lot more vampire fangs to suck into the growing Indian athletic juices. Their proposed basketball and football leagues will not be too different in terms of the commercial standpoint from Lalit Modi's IPL T-20 Cricket league. Purists may completely disregard what the IPL and T-20 have done to the game, but there is no denying that now being a professional cricketer is an exciting and possible option for a lot more Indians than before.

This could turn out well for basketball in India. Better facilities, better training, more money, more talent, better teams, more fans, more merchandise... More basketball.

On the other side, it could all go bonkers... If the soul of the game itself is disregarded. Money may be able to buy a lot of things, but it'll be interesting to see how they manage to buy fans for the game in India. It's not impossible, for basketball and football are very easily likable sports, and are already two of the fastest growing sports in the country. I just hope that, like T-20 threatened to butcher what purists called "real cricket", this league doesn't butcher the game of basketball itself.

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March 14, 2010

Video: Magic Johnson - The greatest invidual performance ever

This game goes down in basketball and NBA myth, spoken in reverence amongst hoops fans over the past 30 years. There has never been a single invidual performance in a basketball game like the one Earvin "Magic" Johnson produced on May 16, 1980. It was only Magic's rookie year, and he played his greatest game ever. The Lakers had league MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had led them into the finals along with the help of Magic. In the finals, the Lakers faced off against the 76ers, led by 'Dr J.' Julius Erving and Darryl Dawkins.

Lakers took a 3-2 lead in the first five games of the NBA finals, but Kareem hurt his ankle in Game 5, and the series was returning to Philadelphia without him. It was at this point that the rookie Magic, a natural point guard, stepped up to start at Centre and play ALL FIVE POSITIONS in the game, finishing with 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals. The Lakers won the game 123-107 and became the 1979-80 NBA champions. Magic won the finals MVP, and proceeded to win four more NBA championships.

He's the first (and only) rookie to have won Finals MVP - Magic at 6'9" was a freak of nature, capable of doing things few others could. I was inspired to look up this video and write this article when I read the SLAM article "Which MJ was the Greatest?" by Vincent Thomas. Now, Thomas wasn't able to convince me that Magic was better than Michael, but he does put up a compelling argument. Magic to me was the second best basketball player of all time, and on that May night nearly 30 years ago, he put up a show that no one else could ever match.

I rate this game greater than Wilt's 100, Kobe's 81, Jordan's 63 against the Celtics, or any other performance ever. Not only was this the championship clinching game, Magic was also only a rookie, and did I say that he played FIVE positions?

What do you think this was the greatest individual performance ever?

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March 12, 2010

Basketball at Gunpoint: The harsh realities of corruption in Indian basketball

Here's an article of mine that was recently published of It is a modified version of my article Farceketball: Indian basketball's rotten core.

Sport is supposed to be different. Sport is supposed to be a platform where a combination of talent, practice, and luck mesh together to create an alternative reality. In a vast and culturally dense country like India, the population is divided amongst millions of subgroups by state, language, caste, color, profession, and politics.

But sports, and in our case, basketball, is supposed to be different — when basketball players step on to the court, something in their nature changes. They are no longer the desk clerk, the IT technician, the law-student, the father of two, the Hindu, the Muslim, the Marxist, or the liberal. They become basketball players. All the other staples of community division go out the window — the rich man doesn’t always win, the darker one isn’t discriminated against, the educated holds no advantage over the illiterate.

Well, all that is supposed to happen, anyways.

There are not many who take the sport seriously in India, but for the small population who do, basketball is their lifeline, their way out of dreaded pigeonholing in everyday society, where a boy in the service class will take a government job just like his father and a girl — any girl — will be married off sooner than she can learn to pronounce “Independence”. This is obviously not the trend in the modern, urban, upper-class Indian society; but the majority of middle and lower class ball players prefer to live in the alternative reality where their jump shot is more valuable to the world than the caste they were born into.

For these serious ball players, the basketball court is held in reverence, respected like a temple, where all other realities become blurred away leaving room for something that puts them on a common playing field, something that is fair.

But what is the point of reverence when it is nothing but a farce? When games are played not to win but to pave way for the ‘natural order’ of sport in the country; when results are determined not by the team with the more talent but the team with the stronger voice?

Here is the latest example: Last month, the All India Inter University Basketball tournament, featuring the best college-level talent in the country, concluded in my hometown of Varanasi. Hosted by the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), this tournament featured the best four teams from each of the four zones in the country. 16 teams took part in this exciting competition, which featured two local teams in the final — the hosts BHU versus the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth (MGKV). BHU beat MGKV 63-56 to lift the trophy in front of their home fans, and thus became the best university basketball team in the country.

But the result is far from the complete truth. Players from visiting Delhi and Rajasthan universities alleged that they had to forfeit or lose their games over threats at gunpoint!

To everyone’s shock (or perhaps not), the entire starting five of the MGKV squad didn’t play a single minute in the tournament’s final against the BHU. These included 23-year-old Vikram ‘Dicky’ Parmar, the best player in the tournament, and one of the most talented young players in the country. The excuses for this ranged from “mild injuries” to “protecting the players from future injuries”.

Really? Why would you protect your players in the FINAL of the most important basketball tournament of their time in university?

The truth is this: It had been agreed from before that the MGKV coach would only play his reserves against BHU in the final, so that BHU could win their hometown tournament and BHU’s longtime revered coach KN Rai would be given a victorious retirement party.

The game itself exposed this charade further — after trailing for most of the three quarters, MGKV reserves actually made an amazing comeback in the fourth and took a one-point lead against BHU in the final two minutes. At this point, the MGKV coach had a word with his second squad, and subsequently, MGKV players practically gave up, loosening up their defense and standing around as the BHU scored freely to pick up a victory.

The most shocking fact about this farce isn’t that the above mentioned incidents took place; it is that everyone involved with the tournament and the teams taking part in the finals silently let it happen. The crowd, although uncomfortable with the happenings on court, simply sat back and watched. The media made a soft whimper about it on the following days, but the organizing associations turned a blind eye. Even the coaches and players of MGKV could only respond with a sigh, agreeing “these things just happen.”

They just happen. When I spoke to former UP player and Varanasi-based basketball coach Jitendar Kumar about this incident, his only response was that these things are “natural” in such tournaments — everyone from the referees, gun-toting bullies, and even opposing coaches and players get involved in making sure the home squads take the trophy. The teams agree to the result: That is what is supposed to happen because it always does.

Let me also add Varanasi has had a reputation of being uniquely illustrious in churning out national-level basketball talents. Unfortunately, this ancient city, also known for attracting pilgrims and tourists from around the world, happens to be in one of India’s major crime belts across Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

In the days following this story, I received a range of reactions from the fans. Subhash Mahajan, who is a basketball coach in rural parts of India, shared that he wasn’t surprised with the result, adding the sport is tainted on every district, state, or institution level in the country.

Players from the other teams who took part in the competition also complained of how the atrocities could take place under the nose of some of the event’s organizers. I can’t think of an apt NBA equivalent — how about Gilbert Arenas threatening the Lakers at gunpoint to lose the NBA Finals, right under David Stern’s eye. The gunpoint thing may not be completely unimaginable in Arenas’ case, although the thought of the Wizards in the Finals may be a bit too farfetched.

A reader of my blog, Vivek Taterway, once shared this tragic story: “My brother, who had mistakenly scored a goal at a University Football Tournament many summers ago at their rival’s home ground, barely escaped with his life. He actually ran off before the game ended! Today that event is recalled at family gatherings with loads of laughter but the irony cannot be missed.”

If the biggest university-level championship is treated under such conditions, we are doing nothing but corrupting the very core of what will shape our national sport teams in the future. What is the point of being true to basketball when those who run it won’t be true to you? If Indian authorities are really serious about promoting basketball as a major sport in India, it should first clean out such practices in all levels — a task much easier said than done, and for as long as our authorities remain corrupt, there is no chance of any serious attempt at this.

Basketball (and sport) is supposed to be an escape from the harsh realities from life’s other trends and professions, but we have unfortunately become used to accepting a corrupt system as the only reality. We need a united effort in the fans, players, and federation to fight against this. Let’s not convince our players to corrupt the one thing in life they love most: basketball.

*First published on on March 9, 2010.

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March 11, 2010

jdBasketball returns to India

Basketball school jdBasketball, run by coach and entrepreneur JD Walsh, is returning to India next month. As part of a programme sponsored by the US Department of State, jdBasketball will host training camps in Chennai, Bangalore, and Mumbai.

Additionally, jdBasketball will be partnered by the Centre of Sports Management of the George Mason University, where the basketball programme is overseen by assistant professor of sport management Craig Esherick (former assistant basketball coach and scout for the 1988 U.S. Men's Olympic basketball team).

These are the tentative plans for the tour:

Chennai: April 7-10, with the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu.
Bangalore: April 10-15, Men's National Team training.
Mumbai: April 16-18, jdBasketball camp and clinic.

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March 10, 2010

Get ready for the Mahindra-NBA recreational league

Here's great news if you are a baller in Ludhiana, Bangalore, or Mumbai. Or a fan of the NBA. Or capitalism. A day after BFI General Secretary Harish Sharma spoke to me about the possibility of a pro basketball league in India, the NBA and industrial conglomerate Mahindra Group announced a partnership to launch a new multi-city community-based recreational basketball league in those three cities.

The league will be called the Mahindra NBA Challenge, and will run for seven weeks every year in two divisions: Youth division - ages 14-17; Adult division - 18 and above. The league will comprise of co-ed teams. The Basketball Federation of India (BFI) will be working with the NBA to implement and oversee league operations.

The league will tip off on April 17th at the St. Dominic Savio and Mustan YMCA courts in Mumbai. Individuals and teams will be allowed to register beforehand by visiting the NBA-India website. Over the seven weeks, each team will play each other in one game a week (that's it?!), and the best teams will play in a "postseason" knock-out tournament at the end of the regular season in each city.

Here's more info and quotes from

The Mahindra NBA Challenge will provide basketball enthusiasts and newcomers to the game the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of the game and apply their skills in a fun, competitive environment.
“We are delighted to be partnering with the NBA to create a multi-city recreational league in India,” said Anand Mahindra, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Mahindra Group. “In a cricket loving nation such as India, we feel it is important to encourage other sports as well and we believe basketball is perfectly suited to bring communities together and promote healthy, active lifestyles to Indian youth.”

“Mahindra is the perfect partner for the creation of a new recreational basketball league for Indian fans,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern. “The BFI, Mahindra and the NBA share a long-term commitment to growing the game in India and to using the values of our game to make a positive, lasting impact in Indian communities.”
“Basketball continues to grow in popularity across India and now youngsters in Bangalore, Ludhiana and Mumbai will have the opportunity to play in an organized league and further develop their skills,” said Harish Sharma, Secretary General of BFI. “The launch by Basketball Federation of India and the NBA of the Mahindra NBA Challenge is very exciting and will help accelerate the basketball development of Indian youngsters.”

What does it mean for basketball in India? Well, a mini-recreational league may not be the ideal solution for promoting love for basketball here, but at least it's a start. With the NBA lending its name, the league definitely has the backbone to create enough of an interested niche amongst fans and ballers.

What is more important is if the league is succesful in garnering media/fan/player attention, that the BFI continues with its plans to start official school/college leagues with more than 'recreational' incentive. These efforts will eventually pave the way for a pro basketball league in India that will replace the current service-team/tournament system.

On a side note: one of the three cities where this league will be launched is Ludhiana. Really? I've been to Ludhiana - my sister-in-law's from Ludhiana. It's alright, but was it really one of the three choices for an NBA-backed recreational basketball league? Not for basketball reasons, it wasn't - but Ludhiana does happen to have one of the fastest growing economies in the country. I'm not saying that there aren't basketball/NBA fans in Ludhiana - it is just less compared to a whole host of other (bigger) cities in India. Ludhiana is less of a basketball city and more of a Mercedes city (look it up - residents of 'Ludsville' are Merc-fiends). Forgive me if I now quote the Wu-Tang Clan to describe the real reason for NBA/Mahindra to look here: "Cash Rule Everything Around Me, C.R.E.A.M., Get the Money!"

Also, didn't anyone tell the NBA that Bangalore is now Bengaluru (still sounds wierd to me)? Someone release the Ram Sene on David Stern already!

In the end though, in India, any basketball news is good basketball news. I'm excited about this venture and hope that it spreads to more cities - New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, and others.

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March 9, 2010

BFI's Harish Sharma: "India could have a professional basketball league in three years!"

Sitting courtside at the NBA All Star Game at the Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington, Harish Sharma, the secretary general of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), was more awestruck by the scenes off the court than the superstars on it. Off the court sat the biggest crowd to ever attend a basketball game – a mind-boggling, Guinness-Book-of-Records shattering 108,713 people.

That is more than 1 lakh, 8 thousand in Indian terms.

“I have never seen a crowd this big at a basketball game,” Sharma said, “It was amazing. I was happy and excited to see that basketball can draw such a huge number.”

The All Star Weekend in Dallas was just one of the many basketball-related activities that Sharma took part in during his eight-day tour of the US last month. Sharma represented Indian basketball as he traveled from city to city, watching players, meeting NBA officials, and plotting a future for basketball in India.

No, there is no chance that a crowd of over 1 lakh will show up for a basketball game in India anytime soon. Hell – that kind of crowd doesn’t even show up for NBA games – the All Star was only an exception. Nevertheless, Sharma was left moved and motivated – basketball has a future, in the USA, in India, and all around the world.

One of his most ambitious projects is, with the co-operation of the NBA, to begin a two or three city school and college league in India later this year, which would eventually lead to a full-scale professional basketball league in around three years time.

I finally caught up with Sharma yesterday for a brief interview. Basketball may still be a fringe sport in terms of national consciousness in India, but Sharma and the efforts of others in BFI ooze in confidence, promising a bright future for the game here.

Hoopistani: I know you attended the recently concluded Ramu Memorial Basketball Tournament in Mumbai – what were your thoughts on the level of basketball there?

Sharma: The level at Ramu was good, but a lot of other good teams and players were not able to participate. It was the offseason and the tournament was being held immediately after the National Basketball Championship. Still, I was satisfied by the improving talent of our basketball players.

Hoopistani: Let’s talk about your visit to the US. How long were you there for? What was on your agenda?

Sharma: I spent 8 days in the USA, from the 11th-18th of February. It was a busy trip, as I met several top-level officials of the NBA, including NBA commissioner David Stern. I attended the All Star Game in Dallas. I also got to meet [basketball coach and entrepreneur] JD Walsh, and discussed the George Mason University programme with the help of which we hope to send Indian coaches to get trained in America. I was in Tampa, Florida to observe other basketball systems, and even kept my eye on non-resident-Indians, the Bhullar brothers, play a game in Philadelphia.

Hoopistani: Speaking of JD, what do you think of his efforts and work with basketball in India?

Sharma: We totally support his work here. We open our arms to anyone who can come here and help Indian basketball.

Hoopistani: Now, the NBA has been increasing interest in India over the last few years, with programmes such as Basketball Without Borders that was held a few years ago and the launch of the new NBA-India website at the end of last year. What is the future of the NBA with India?

Sharma: The NBA have started a partnership with BFI, and we are looking to share a vision of basketball in India with them. We are seeking their help from them in developing basketball in the country in various ways. There will probably be a follow-up Basketball Without Borders programme very soon. One of our main agendas is to launch a pilot school and college city basketball league.

Hoopistani: Can you please tell me more about this project? When will it be launched?

Sharma: This school/college basketball league will be launched later this year in two or three cities in India. We are definitely looking for a school league in New Delhi and a college league in Chennai. We may increase the number of cities if the response to our request to the sponsors/marketing people requires it.
Hopefully we can come up with some good basketball in these leagues. The NBA is helping us to run this and make sure that we follow it in the correct way.

Hoopistani: What about professional leagues? Do you think we should have a basketball league in India that mirrors the NBA or the Indian Premier League (IPL) of Twenty-20 cricket?

Sharma: Absolutely! A professional basketball league in India is definitely our goal. That is why the school/college league will play the part of a nursery to develop more future basketball players. My trip to the USA was one of our efforts to learn about how to develop such a league in India. Give it maybe three years, and such a league could become a reality.

Hoopistani: One problem in India with basketball is getting enough sponsors to support the project. Do you think these proposed leagues would have the necessary support?

Sharma: Yes, sponsorship is always a hindrance for such projects – but we have the NBA’s support, and are working hard to get sponsors to help launch this league.

Hoopistani: How has basketball evolved in India over the last few decades, ever since you were a player? (Sharma was part of the Indian national team in the 70s, representing the country in tournaments such as the Youth Asian Championships and the Indo-German series).

Sharma: A lot has changed. Basketball is a lot more popular in India now. There is more basketball on TV, more players, more tournaments, and more schools are involved.
There will always be arguments between the old-school and new-school, and which is better, but there is no denying that the facilities are better now, the courts are better. There are more manufacturers producing basketball goods – I remember that as a player, we had to get our shorts get custom made by the tailors because we couldn’t find the right gear in the market!

Hoopistani: What do you see for the future in Indian basketball?

Sharma: India has progressed – we must dedicate a lot of effort into the game. India will very soon come into a big space in basketball. One of our main aims is to make sure our players are better rewarded. They deserve more for playing the game, and I’m sure that in the near future, there will be much better incentive and reward for Indian basketball players.
But players have to also understand their responsibility. The federation and sponsors may do all they can, but in the end, it all comes down to the performance of the players. Only their performance can really shape the future of Indian basketball – and I’m confident that they can do it!

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