April 30, 2011

Playoffs... Round 2... FIGHT!

I don't know about you, but that was indeed a breathless and emotional first round, perhaps one of the more exciting ones in recent years (of course, barring that SUPER-EPIC Bulls-Celtics 1st Round series two years ago). This year was breathless because of some crucial big games and some crucial upsets, and emotional because my favourite team, the Knicks finally made the playoffs for the first time in seven years only to be shown the door in four depressing games.

Anyways, we are now in the second round, and in a few paragraphs, I will lay out my predictions for four more intriguing series. Before we get there though, let's take a quick recap of what's happened so far:

- His Hornets couldn't complete their incredible bid for an upset, but Chris Paul (22 ppg, 11.5 apg, 6.7 rpg, 1.8 spg) is my nominee for 1st Round MVP. Epic performances in Game 1 (33, 14, 7) and Game 4 (27, 15, 13) were especially impressive.
- Grizzlies created history by becoming just the fourth eighth seed ever to beat a top seed when they beat the Spurs. I'm still enjoying the afterglow of that victory. The West has indeed been pushed wide open.
- Goodbye to Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Chris Paul - great players gone fishing.
- My first round predictions were a semi-disaster. With Hawks, Mavericks, and Grizzlies winning, I only scored 5/8. Let's see how these ones go...


(1) Bulls vs. (5) Hawks: Chicago struggled more than they should have against the Pacers, but they still managed to pull off a neat-looking 4-1 victory. They showed two things: 1) They still needed consistent offense from someone else but Derrick Rose to beat the better teams in the playoffs and 2) They showed poise to win games where they didn't play well, a sign of a great team. I think this team will be a lot more confident now that they have survived a first round.
The Hawks will go as far as the Bulls allow them to go. Yes, I don't discount their surprising domination of the Magic in the first round, but Chicago will be a whole another animal to deal with. Hawks will have trouble scoring over an elite Bulls defense, and everyone in that team will have trouble stopping Derrick Rose, especially since news is now coming that Kirk Hinrich may be seriously injured.
Chicago Bulls win 4-2

(2) Heat vs. (3) Celtics: Adrian Wojnarowski, on his Yahoo! Sports article, predicted that this could possibly be the biggest second round series ever. I am inclined to agree. This is a match-up fit for the finals, with enough storylines to keep one's mind well and truly boggled. Here's a quick rundown of the drama that will surround this incredible series:
1) Miami showed great vulnerability against Boston all season, losing their first three match-ups, before getting their revenge in the last one.
2) Miami, with its Big 3 of Wade, LeBron, and Bosh, are the league's most hyped team this year. Celtics have done it all before with their own Big 3 of Garnett, Pierce, and Allen, who won the championship in 2008. The question now is, who wins? Players in their prime in Miami but lacking the experience that the Celtics three had/have? Or the veterans, with more experience now, and with a much deeper bench?
3) LeBron James: A year ago, LeBron played for the Cavs against the Celtics at this exact stage. We all know how that ended. Celtics helped kill the LeBron era in Cleveland, helped push the brand of LeBron as a big-game choker, and the NBA's villain. Believe this: there is NO team in the world that LeBron wants to beat more than Boston. Read Wojnarowski's article linked above to know more.
4) Dwyane Wade: Before they beat LeBron, the Celtics beat Wade and Miami in the first round last year, but Wade didn't lose without having some big individual games. He has struggled against Boston this season, but now its his chance to show that he can beat them with the right squad around him.
5) Shaquille O'Neal: Will Shaq even play? A former teammate to both LeBron and Wade, I will be looking to see if the Big EVERYTHING can be a factor to end the dreams of his former teammates.
6) Delonte West: He's a Celtic now. He was a Cav last year. Ask LeBron's mum about the rest of the story.
7) The Matchups: Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce vs. LeBron James, Ray Allen vs. Dwyane Wade will all be intriguing to watch... But who's gonna stop Rondo? And will Miami have an answer for Boston's deep bench?
My answer to that last question is yes, they will. Boston are deeper and more experienced, but they are also old and past their primes. I believe that Miami have begun to peak at just the right time in this series. It will be a back-and-forth battle where the equation and the momentum could shift after each game - I know it's tough to call, but I am going to side with the home-court advantage. I expect big things from LeBron and Wade here, and I expect seven unforgettably close games.
Miami Heat win 4-3


(2) Lakers vs. (3) Mavericks: With the Spurs out of the equation, the Lakers have to be feeling a lot more confident about completing their three-peat now. I know they showed some hesitancy in the first round against New Orleans, but from experience, I can say that this is a team that just gets better as the playoffs progress - remember last year, when they showed hesitancy against the Thunder in the first round and then went on to win a championship? Kobe is in Warrior-Mode, Gasol showed signs of recovery, and Bynum will be the key once again. Lakers are deep enough beyond these three, as consistent play by Artest and Odom will only improve.
Mavs, on the other hand, are running out of legitimate believers. Yes, they beat Portland, but it is how they perform against LA that will define them. Kidd and Nowitzki have been searching for that championship for all their careers, and this season could be their last best chance - fitting then, that their job is to remove the reigning champs off their perch. I say that they come up short.
LA Lakers win 4-2

(4) Thunder vs. (8) Grizzlies: If you're the Thunder, you have to be happy, right? Not only did you just cross the first round for the first time, beating a tricky Denver team 4-1, but your second round just got a whole lot easier. No disrespect to Memphis, but I'm sure Thunder had the Spurs and their experience in mind all throughout. Tony Allen contained Manu Ginobili - could he contain Kevin Durant? This could be the year that Durant begins to build his playoff legacy, and a big series against the Grizzlies could go a long way in securing it.
But can the team that just beat the West's best be so easily discounted? It took some amazing basketball by the Grizzlies to defeat the consistently unstoppable Spurs. And Memphis power-forward Zach Randolph has especially impressed me with elite-level play against perhaps the greatest power forward ever in Tim Duncan. Will Grizzlies be able to keep up the momentum in the second round, especially against another youthful team? I doubt it, but I doubted them before, too, and look what they did.
OKC Thunder win 4-1

So there we go - I say that the Conference Finals will be Bulls vs. Heat and Lakers vs. Thunder - what are your predictions?

April 26, 2011

NBA’s Greg Stolt: “In India, Basketball thrives because of the people’s passion.”

There could perhaps be no more suitable candidate for the NBA to send to India to help promote the game than Greg Stolt. Stolt, who works with the international operations unit of the NBA, made his third trip to India in late March/April 2011, during which time he has continued on the trail that his fellow NBA authority and the Director of Basketball Operations in India Troy Justice has been blazing for the last few years. In his most recent trip, Stolt was involved in helping conduct coaching clinics in Bangalore and New Delhi and the Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA Skill Challenge in Mumbai and Pune.

Stolt’s resume is proof that he is the perfect candidate for the job because he brings with him experience of playing high-level basketball in the United States and across the world, as well as experience in behinds the scenes management that the development of the game requires, especially in other parts of Asia.

Stolt played college basketball in the University of Florida, and after finishing his degree, he tested the waters of the NBA as a player with a few tryouts. When that didn’t work out, he spent his professional career living the dream of a international basketball journeyman: from the D-League in the US, to league’s in Belgium, Spain, France, Japan, and Australia, Stolt played basketball overseas for six years. Afterwards, he settled with a job in Japan, which helped him improve his business acumen.

“The NBA recruited me to work for them because I’ve seen how things work in several different countries,” Stolt says, “My mixed background of business, basketball, and international experience helps a lot.”

Stolt has been working with the NBA for two years now, during which time he has visited India three times: In December 2009, he came to India for refurbishments and inaugurations of basketball courts in Mumbai and Chennai. Then again in the summer of 2010, he was involved with the running of the first season of the Mahindra NBA Challenge for two months.

“My job is to help improve the level of the game in India,” Stolt adds, “Along with Troy Justice and the rest of the NBA’s team here, I have been working with several people locally to build a strategy for the growth of the game here.”

Stolt also has knowledge and experience of the business of basketball in three other important Asian countries which could be used as reference models for the game in India – China, Japan, and South Korea.

Comparing the game in India to the other three countries, Stolt said, “These other markets are probably a lot more mature than India right now, in terms of their federation structure, their infrastructure, and the system of basketball development from the school level.”

“But in India, we see that change is coming – sport is growing quicker than ever before, especially since the success and popularity of the IPL or the Commonwealth Games. India is a little behind, sure, but it’s getting there. The best thing about this country is that its proactive and the people here are yearning for change.”

This year, the tasks were varied for Stolt, but equally important nonetheless. Since the NBA is targeting teaching the game to younger players in India so that they can get an early start, both the coaches training programme and the Junior Skills’ Challenge programmes are going to be crucial.

“We can’t go out and coach every child in this country,” Stolt says, “That’s why we have been holding the coaches’ training programme, so that these coaches know how best to train 12-year-olds. This programme was especially helpful for the young coaches, whom we provided with as much of our own knowledge and resources as we could.

In the two coaches’ clinics held in Bangalore and Delhi, there were about a 100 coaches in attendance each time. Stolt’s NBA-India associates Troy Justice and Marty Conlon extend the clinics to other cities like Pune, Mumbai, and Chennai, and a total of 500 coaches are expected to have been involved countrywide.

Meanwhile, the Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA Skills Challenge was set out to involve students from over 500 schools in Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, and Pune in a youth basketball development programme. Stolt worked in Pune and Mumbai, where an average of 140 kids participated from each city.

“I think the Junior Skills Challenge was right on target,” says Stolt, “When the kids came out to compete in the challenges, we saw that the coaches we had worked with earlier had already prepared them in the right way. They knew the right drills and the fundamentals."

With the on-field work over, Stolt returned to the NBA office in New York to work on the other side of his job: planning and strategy. One of the NBA’s long term programmes, he says, has been to identify more markets in India for the type of programmes that have so far been held in some of the country’s major cities. The NBA is hoping to develop a database of the people with whom they have been involved in India and also study the results of the public’s reactions to the various programmes held by the NBA here. “We want to shape things to be perfectly suitable for the Indian market,” he says.”

And as far as he is concerned, Stolt is certain that the people that he has worked with will make the tasks a whole lot easier. “The one thing that pleasantly surprised me a lot about coming and working with India were the people involved with the game here,” Stolt said, “Unlike China, Japan, or Korea, who have structured leagues and systems, there is no guaranteed career paths for the coaches, players, trainers and referees in India: but they do it for the love of the game, and the game thrives here because of the people’s passion. That is a wonderful thing.”

April 25, 2011

Video: Vince Carter - The Dunk of Death

I want to take a short interlude from our regular scheduled programming here at the Hoopistani blog to talk about my favourite dunk.

AAAAAH... The dunk... Everyone has a favourite dunker, a favourite slam, whether it is in a Slam Dunk competition, during a fast-break in a game, or my personal favourite, an unexpected elevation from a freakish athlete right in the middle of the crowded lane. Usually, these are the dunks that make for the best posters.

With so many choices, how do you pick just one? I'm starting off my narrowing my field down a little bit - the dunk has to be elite and relevant - and by that I mean, the dunker has to be a relevant basketball player at his time and the stage has to be at the most elite/competitive. So, sorry random dunkers (with little other basketball skills) in Algeria (Kadour Ziani) or streetball dunkers (Taurian Fontenette), or our own Indian Blake Griffin, TJ Sahi (who dunked over a Mumbai taxi two weeks ago): I'm officially unconsidering you all for my list.

The next thing I want to count out are dunk competitions altogether. Yes, they are nice to watch, sometimes. Yes, the likes of Jordan, Dominque, Dr. J, Kobe, Vince Carter, Dwight Howard, Nate Robinson, and Blake Griffin have been spectacular in dunk competitions, but they don't count for two points and crushed souls of the opponents like in-game dunks do. This paragraph is officially dedicated to TJ Sahi, the finest dunker in India, who one-upped Blake Griffin in India's own slam dunk competition 10 days ago with a dunk for the ages in Mumbai, when he jumped over a kali-peeli taxi.

Anyways, now seeing that my field has been narrowed down so far, you probably expect an in-game NBA dunk. You probably expect to see a big man like Amar'e Stoudemire, Shawn Kemp, or Blake Griffin eating opponents alive here. Or a backboard breaker by Shaq or Darryl Dawkins. Or John Starks pulling out a classic. Or Scottie Pippen making Patring Ewing cry, or Dr. J, Michael Jordan, or Dominique, or Vince Carter making posters out of ordinary human beings in an NBA game.


My favourite dunk of all time does indeed belong to one of the names above. The last one, actually. Vince Carter. But it isn't from an NBA game - it's from the Olympics.

To a new NBA fan, Vince might be that dude who comes off the bench for the Suns, behind Jared Dudley. He's that slow-footed guy who looks like he doesn't care about the game at all, and averages about 14 points a game. Well, my friends, you need to go back in time, about a decade back actually, to realise that at point, Vince Carter was the most unstoppable force in the league. Without going into superlatives, I'll just say that where other talented players choose to slide in a tough lay-up, Vince Carter chose to rise above and slam it in. He is the man behind countless SportCenter Plays of the Day, countless Slam Magazine SLAMADAMONTH's, countless in-game humiliation, and the single greatest slam dunk competition performance of all time.

But for me, Vince's finest moment came in the 2000 Olympics, where he was representing the USA Basketball Team. This moment came in the game against France on September 25, 2000. Carter (6"6), jumped OVER the 7"2 Frédéric Weis' head and slamming the ball in. This dunk was so famous that it made the man who was dunked on famous. Just think about that. Weis, A French player, who never played in the NBA, and was barely an influence in the French national team, is known amongst hoop-heads for one reason, and one reason alone - Vince Carter. Hell, this dunk is SO famous it has its own nickname: The French Media called it "le dunk de la mort", or "the dunk of death".

It's a pity that, being an Olympic game, there are few excellent copies of it available on the internet. I present you the best copy available. Enjoy!

The Dunk of Death, indeed.

April 21, 2011

Geethu Anna Jose – Q&A: WNBA Dreams

Two weeks ago, the dreams of lakhs of Indian basketball players and fans came one step closer to realisation, as word got out that India’s superstar Center Geethu Anna Jose is set to be offered tryouts by several professional teams in the Womens’ National Basketball Association (WNBA), the most competitive and prestigious Women’s basketball league in the world. It has been learnt that Geethu (26) will be trying out for the Los Angeles Sparks (two-time WNBA Championship winners), the San Antonio Silver Stars (2008 Finalists), and the Chicago Sky from April 23 – May 8.

The opportunity couldn’t have come for a more deserving player – Jose has been the biggest Indian basketball star for several years: she has captained the Indian Women’s side at the FIBA Asia Women’s Basketball Championship in 2009, where she was leading scorer in Asia. She has represented India in several major tournaments, including the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia and the 2010 Asian Games basketball championship in Guangzhou (China). Jose, who stands at 6 feet and 2 inches, is currently working for Southern Railway in Chennai, and, representing Indian Railways, has won seven consecutive National Basketball Championship titles. She was also the first Indian women to play professionally in Australia, when she represented the Ringwood Hawks, a lower division team in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), and won the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2008.

I got a chance to speak to Jose about her historic bid to complete the WNBA dream

Hoopistani: When did you first hear the news that your WNBA trials have been finalised?

Geethu Anna Jose [GAJ]: Troy Justice [Director of Basketball Operations, NBA India] emailed me and told me the news. I had handed him CDs of my game tapes, which he had taken with him to the USA, and he had been trying to set up meetings for me for a long time. In the first week of April I heard about my trials finally being confirmed.

Hoopistani: How does it feel to be given this incredible opportunity?

GAJ: There are few words left for me to express my happiness. Two years ago, I had gotten a similar offer, but back then, I refused to go: I didn’t feel confident in my own fitness to go for this kind of test. Ever since then, I felt a lot of regret about letting an opportunity like that slip by. I thought I would never get my chance again. But here it is: I’ve been very excited since I heard this news!

Hoopistani: So this time around, are you ready?

GAJ: Yes, I think I am.

Hoopistani: The WNBA is the ultimate dream for basketball players around the world. Was this your ambition too when you first started playing the game?

GAJ: When I first entered the basketball world, I dreamt of one day becoming the captain of the Indian basketball team. I achieved that dream in 2009 when I captained the Indian side at FIBA Women’s ABC. After that, I thought to myself, “What now?” And I knew that the WNBA should be the next step. In most cases, my age (26) might be a little too late to try for that next step, but my fate has been good because American coaches like Troy Justice and Tamika Raymond have come to India and helped me.

Hoopistani: Speaking of Raymond [Indian Women coach for the 2010 Asian Games], how has she helped your development?

GAJ: Coach Raymond encouraged me a lot – she always told me that she liked my game and compared my style of play to her own. In India, I play the Center position, but for the WNBA, I will have to play at Power Forward. Coach Raymond was behind me to help me make that switch when necessary.

Hoopistani: Talk about the competition that you faced during your time in Australia.

GAJ: The competition was very rough in Australia, but it also helped my game a lot. In India, I’m used to being double or tripled team in every offensive possession. In Australia, where there are more girls my size, I was usually defended one-on-one, which added a different perspective to my game.

Hoopistani: At this point, how much do you know about the process of your tryouts with the three teams?

GAJ: I know that, in Chicago, I will be joining the Sky for a training and tryout session. I will also be helped by Bill Harris [Indian Men’s coach for the 2010 Asian Games] over there. Troy Justice has told me not to worry too much about the process – I know that it’s not going to be about the number of baskets I score, but more about my basketball IQ.

Hoopistani: How much do you know about the teams that you will be trying out for?

GAJ: I haven’t followed the WNBA too much in recent years – I do know that the LA Sparks are very talented and have some of the best players in the league. But I’m not concerned about where I go because I think I can fit in with any of the teams.

Hoopistani: Where do you see yourself in the near future?

GAJ: I see myself as a WNBA player. But also, I want to see that my tryout is able to be a great opening for other young players in India to make the leap to the highest level.

Hoopistani: Do you think, then, that more Indian players will follow in your footsteps?

GAJ: Yes. We have a lot of talent here in India, but unfortunately, the exposure is less for them. There are currently very few club teams for women in India – once this number is increased, or if we see a pro league launched in the country, we will see many more talented youngsters come up the ranks.

Jose thanked the efforts of everyone who helped make her tryouts and her trip to the USA possible, including Troy Justice, Jayasankar Menon, the BFI’s Harish Sharma, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), and the Hindustan Group.

April 20, 2011

Video: TJ Sahi dunks over a Mumbai Taxi

Blake Griffin was not the first person to dunk over a car. But when the 'Blake Show' took off to slam it in over a Kia during the 2011 Slam Dunk competition, it was the first time an "over-the-car" dunk was done on such a big stage. I was there in person, and I was impressed. Half of me was impressed because it was a pretty good dunk, and the other half of me was impressed because of a combination of entertaining things that took place along with the dunk - The Gospel Choir, "I Believe I can Fly", the Staples Center home crowd cheering him on, and did I mention, it was the friggin NBA Slam Dunk Competition?

But strip the dunk bare of all the side-shows and what you're left with is a 6 foot 10 NBA player dunking over a short car.

Forward another couple of months. The scene is drastically different. It's a slam dunk competition all right, but one being held far from the glitz, glamour, and indoor-court comforts of Los Angeles/Staples Center. This dunk contest was being held at the first ever Indian All Star Weekend in Mumbai. The court was the Mastan YMCA, in Nagpada, which in most terms is the exact opposite of LA glamour. Nagpada is known for its kebabs, its crowds, its chawls, and its basketball.

And it was in this setting that, in an outdoor court, with a temporary rollover surface over the concrete court, and where the crowd had free entry to come and watch India's best dunkers exhibit their stuff, that TJ Sahi created history. If you don't know, Sahi is perhaps the most explosive dunker in India: the six foot tall Punjabi point guard, nicknamed 'Air India', has reached cult status for his athletic ability, and has been a main feature in several dunk competitions held in the country over the last few years. You can check out more of his videos on his YouTube channel.

During the Friday night events of the Indian All Star Weekend about two weeks ago, Sahi did his usual in the dunk contest - wowing audiences with his leaping ability. But he saved the best for last, taking a page out of Blake Griffin's book, and then topping him. Sahi dunked over a Mumbai kali-peeli (Black & Yellow) taxi on-court - a car with greater height than the Kia Griffin dunked on. Watch the video of some of Sahi's best dunking highlights below (over bikes, kids, etc, etc), and it ends with this famous over-the-taxi dunk. (Warning: loud Punjabi music to be expected).

Here is a complete list of ways in which this dunk was more awesome than Blake Griffin's:

  • 1. The kali-peeli taxi, an icon of all things Mumbai, was higher than Blake's Kia.
  • 2. Sahi is about 10 inches shorter than Griffin.
  • 3. If you don't know, these outdoor Indian courts aren't exactly best-suited for basketball athleticism. The court is uneven, with bumps, unlike the comfortable NBA floors which are obviously much easier on the dunker's knees.
  • 4. Don't know if Griffin practiced, but Sahi later confirmed to me that he didn't. "I just had a gut feeling I could do it," he said.
  • 5. Sahi had to figure out a way to cover the meter and the sharp edges on the front of the taxi with a mattress, because a single misstep could've brought a whole lotta pain to his nether-regions.
  • 6. The taxi driver and a bunch of kids sat inside the car to watch him leap over it. R. Kelly was replaced from the soundtrack in favour of some Punjabi music. Now THAT'S entertainment!

    Once again, I count myself lucky to witness this first-hand, right behind the basket. Thanks TJ, for another historical moment - we'll be waiting to see what else you have in store for us.
  • April 19, 2011

    D12 is thrice the best on D

    Most people who know my basketball opinions know that I'm somewhat of a Dwight Howard critic. I call him out on his lack of focus during clutch moments and important games. I call him out for not being the best floor leader that he should be for the Magic. I call him out for his lack of polished offensive moves, and for the fact that he just doesn't seem to be taking the competition as seriously as other elite players in the league. For long, I have maintained that the reason the man known as Superman/D12 is the best Center in the league is because there are very few Centers in the league to come in his way.

    But now that my qualms about Dwight are out of the way, I can't help but maintain a grudging respect for his accomplishments. The NBA announced yesterday that Dwight Howard was named the 2010/11 Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY), and in the process, he becomes the first player in the history of the game (!!!) to be named DPOY for three consecutive seasons.

    Yes! First. One. Ever. The DPOY award was introduced in 1982-83, and I have a feeling that if it was awarded earlier, a certain Bill Russell would've had his name scratched in every corner of the trophy. Nevertheless, since 83, the league has had several great defensive stalwarts (Sidney Moncrief of the Bucks won the award for the first two years), but none of them won it thrice in a row. Not Moncrief, not Michael Cooper, not Michael Jordan, not Gary Payton, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, Dennis Rodman, Alonzo Mourning, Ben Wallace, or Kevin Garnett.

    Dwight Howard!

    The only people who have won the award more times are Mutombo and Ben Wallace, who each were named DPOY four times, but never more than twice in a row. Dwight won easily with 585 points, receiving 114 of the possible 120 first place votes! Kevin Garnett (77) points came second and Tyson Chandler (70) was third.

    So congrats to D12 for making history. Despite the criticisms that many (including I) have been guilty of showering on him, he has continued to be the #1 in the NBA at the defensive end of the floor. Dwight led the league with 66 double-doubles this year, including six 20-20 games (!). He ranked second in rebounds and fourth in blocks. The Magic, behind Dwight, were the league's fourth best defensive team.

    In a conversation that I had with my older brother just last night, we even came to the conclusion that Dwight may be the least-tradeable player in the league right now. Don't confuse that with "best player". There are few players as good as Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, or Dwyane Wade, but Dwight stands above all as a unique commodity in a small man's league, bringing with him the type of game-changing potential that few players in the league possess.

    Still, without an MVP or a title to his name, Dwight will always have the reputation of being almost there, just not quite. Even in this season, which was Dwight's most valuable for his otherwise inconsistent side, the big man was overshadowed by the brilliance of Derrick Rose in Chicago, who will most-likely be named MVP in a week or so.

    Now, Howard needs to back up this honour and save his side from a surprise upset. In Game 1 against the Hawks, Dwight was allowed to create havoc offensively, as he scored 46 points and brought down 19 rebounds. His team-mates, unfortunately, performed a disappearing act that would've made Houdini proud. The current Magic team will never be enough to take D12 over the hump; and I believe that Dwight alone will never be the leader in a sure-shot championship team. But once you find the right type of dominating perimeter leader to team up with Howard, his teams will surely become damn-near unstoppable.

    Until then, congrats, Superman. And in his honour, here's the link to my article/interview with Dwight when he came to India last August. Enjoy!

    April 18, 2011

    Western Railway & Southern Railway emerge Ramu Memorial champions

    Press Release: With the scoreboard oscillating crazily between the two teams in the last two minutes, the pressure got to Shooting For Success, USA, whose players fumbled when it mattered most, enabling Western Railway pull off a deserving 84-81 win in the men’s final of the 27th Ramu Memorial Basketball Tournament, organized by the Indian Gymkhana at the court on Sunday.

    Earlier, Southern Railway outplayed South East Central Railway 64-47 to lift the women’s title. Geethu Anna Jose and S Kokila shared the honours with 19 points each for the winners, while Renjini Peter scored 15. For the losers it was Bharti Netam with 24 and Anju Lakra, 16 who did the bulk of the scoring.

    Western Railway won Rs 1 lakh, while SFS, USA will take home Rs 50,000. Southern Railway won Rs 50,000 for their efforts, while South East Central Railway had to be content with Rs 25,000.

    After Western Railway ran away with the early lead of 22-17 in the first quarter, SFS settled down to a good rhythm with the fit again Charles Moore making his presence felt with his sharp shooting, which fetched him three three-pointer and a tally of 24 points. SFS went into half time with a 42-33 led which they extended to 62-58 at the end of the third quarter.

    The inclusion of Jasjyot Singh in the last quarter made the difference in Western Railway’s fortunes as he scored four three-pointers and had a percentage of six from eight for field goals to help them keep abreast of SFS. Western Railway were trailing 79-81 with less than two minutes left when Yadwinder brought them level with a drive-in. They then put immense pressure on the SFS forwards under their basket to steal the ball and set up Dilawar Singh to score or a 83-81 lead with less than a minute to go. Gagandeep, with his percentage shooting from under the basket, was the high scorer for the winners with 30 points.

    An uncharacteristic fumble by the experienced David Jones put paid to SFS’s chances and after Yadwinder had scored one from two free throws for the score to read 84-81, Jones then muffed an attempt for a three-pointer and time ran out for the teams from USA.


  • Men’s final: Western Railway 84 (Gagandeep Singh 30, Yadwinder Singh 18, Jasjyot Singh 16) bt Shooting For Success, USA 81 (Charles Moore 24, Limar Wilson 20, Joey Shank 13).
  • Women’s final: Southern Railway 64 (Geethu Anna Jose, S Kokila 19 each, Renjini Peter 15) bt South East Central Railway 47 (Bharti Netam 24, Anju Lakra 16).

    Best Player Awards: Limar Wilson (SFS) and S Kokila (Southern Railway).
  • April 15, 2011

    The Playoffs are here! My first round predictions

    Aah... Mid-April. Springtime, mostly wherever I've spent my life. And NBA Playoffs are in the air. All year round, I watch NBA games with a certain astrix: Could Team X be as good as they are right now in the Playoffs? Is Player Y only waiting for the playoffs to start to show his true colours? As far as I'm concerned, the regular season is like the qualifying round of the F1 race - it helps to decide how each racer starts, but then the real work has to be done on Race Day itself.

    So now, Race Day is finally here. The NBA playoffs are set to at 1 PM on Saturday, April 16 EST (equivalent to 10:30 PM Indian Standard Time), with the Pacers visiting the league-best Chicago Bulls. And then, the action begins.

    This is also going to be an important year for me since, after seven years in the waiting, the Knicks are finally back in the post-season. I'm ready with my playoff beard to support them as long as possible - let's see how long before they go fishing and I go to the barber.

    Here are my predictions for the first round:


    (1) Bulls vs (8) Pacers: Fairytale, indeed. Chicago has gone from young pups, finishing 8th in the East last season to number one in the conference and the league. Derrick Rose is the legit MVP of the league, and with a brilliant coach Thibodeau, and a deep supporting cast featuring Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng, this team definitely has what it takes to go far. They focus on defense first, and as we all know, defense wins playoff series (and eventually, championships). Indiana, on the other hand, won only 37 games this season, and are walking into the fire. This series will be a feast. Chicago Bulls win 4-0.

    (2) Heat vs (7) 76ers: 76ers have indeed done an amazing job under Coach Collins this season - going .500 even when none of their players averaged over 15 points a game. Unfortunately, their depth and team-play is going to face its toughest challenge in the first round against the LeBron and Wade show. Yes, Miami have had their question marks, mostly about their lack of depth and lack of tougher big players, but 76ers are just the kind of team that Miami needs to get their momentum back in a big way. I expect LeBron and Wade to dominate easily in this series, and Bosh to get a little done too, for good measure. In 1 game, I'm sure the Philly home crowd and their deeper bench will lead them to victory, something that will help Miami stay on their toes for Round 2. Miami Heat win 4-1

    (3) Celtics vs (6) Knicks: In my view, the toughest first round series in the East. The Celtics have been going through a bad stretch of identity crisis since the Perkins trade, and haven't really been convincing. The Knicks started off terribly with Carmelo Anthony mid-season, but ended with a strong streak to get prepared for the post-season. Melo will have to have the biggest possible series to keep New York alive, and Amare will somehow (although unlikely) regain his early season form against the Celtics' talented frontline. The X-Factor for Knicks is Billups, the only player experienced with the toughness required for this matchup. There will be a couple of very close games, but in the end, I think Boston are way too experienced and sound defensively to lose this series. Plus, Knicks don't play defense. Refer to what I said earlier about that. Boston Celtics win 4-2

    (4) Magic vs (5) Hawks: Will the real Atlanta Hawks please stand up? A perennial mid-tabler, it's hard to take Atlanta too seriously but its hard to ignore them either. I think Orlando have been saving energy for a big post-season run, and they will be too good for the Hawks in this series behind Dwight Howard. Expect Magic shooters to rain down threes like there's no tomorrow, and this will be a good time for Gilbert Arenas to remind us that he's alive. Orlando Magic win 4-1


    (1) Spurs vs (8) Grizzlies: San Antonio were definitely a surprise this season; no one expected this older, fading team to redefine itself and come strong this year, but that's exactly what Coach Popovich has done. Memphis will throw athletes and they'll throw big men like Randolph and Marc Gasol in Spurs' way, but I don't think that it's going to hurt the old men much. Duncan's leadership and this team's great depth should be enough. Ginobili's injury is a question mark, but he should return in time to see his team win a relatively easy series. San Antonio Spurs win 4-1

    (2) Lakers vs (7) Hornets: Oh, LA! A team that starts off as the best, loses to easy teams a lot, then goes on an unstoppable run, and then loses to easy teams a lot again. What's going on with the champions? Is Kobe going crazy? Is Artest too worried about his rap career? Is Gasol too soft? Will Bynum even play? So many questions. But luckily for them, they have received the perfect opponent to regain their groove in the post-season. Bynum is expected to return as Lakers play Hornets. New Orleans have had their own struggles this season with injury, as David West is done for the year. They have stayed afloat behind Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry in the post, but it will take a dominating Chris Paul performance from stopping this from becoming a sweep. It will still be one, though. LA Lakers win 4-0

    (3) Mavericks vs (6) Blazers: These teams are a lot closely matched than their record may indicate. Mavs started the season well, but Portland finished it better, and for the playoffs, its the finish that matters. Both teams are deep: for Nowitzki there's Aldridge, for Marion there's Gerald Wallace, for Jason Kidd there's Andre Miller. And both have stacked benches. Tyson Chandler will be the X-factor for the Mavericks, but the Blazers have the 'X-est' factor of them all.. Brandon Roy of the bench! The intensity of Portland's combined effort and its home support may be too much for Mavs, who are of course, perennial chokers in my eyes. I predict an upset. Portland Trailblazers win 4-2

    (4) Thunder vs (5) Nuggets: This is perhaps the easiest-on-the-eyes match-up there is: young teams, determined basketball, and unpredictability. Nuggets have been a force since trading away Carmelo Anthony, and without a face to their franchise, have been one of the few teams that no one has wanted to cross after the all star break. But OKC are on a different planet altogether. They have improved dramatically this season, and even more since getting their tough man in Kendrick Perkins. What works most is that OKC do have a face to their franchise, the NBA's leading scorer Kevin Durant, and I expect him to lead his team through this slightly difficult series. OKC Thunder win 4-2

    So - those are my predictions above. There are about 31 and a hour hours left (and counting) before the playoffs begin. What do you think its gonna happen?

    April 14, 2011

    Shooting For Success share high-flying exciting hoops in India

    David “DJ” Jones was born in California and now spends his time working in San Antonio, Texas with his basketball camp/foundation, Shooting For Success (SFS). Funny then, that the city where he hears the crowds offering him the most home support these days is thousands of miles away from home... Mumbai.

    With four years of participation in Mumbai’s Savio Cup, and this year, for the first time playing in the 2011 Ramu Memorial Basketball Tournament (RMBT), SFS have certainly made a name for themselves in Mumbai. The club has been the only consistent foreign side visiting India for basketball competitions in recent years, and their fan following has now reached near-cult status.

    SFS’ connection with India began when their team manager, Tushar Patel, first the team over here. “We always have a great experience here, and that is why we keep coming back,” said DJ, who is the captain and coach of the side, as well as the coach back home for the SFS camp in Texas. “It is the great experience that makes us keep coming back – teams that don’t come here are missing out!”

    SFS are a crowd-favourite in Mumbai, as they exhibit amazing above the rim athleticism, swarming defense, and some hot shooting rarely seen on courts in India. DJ, who has played at the professional level in the States for over a decade, says that Mumbai has been one of the places that has shown him the most love. They chant his name ‘DJ! DJ! DJ!’ every time he gets on court; they scream in delight whenever he beats a man off his quick dribble or drains one of his many reliable three-pointers. “The fans treat us well here, so we keep coming back!” he says.

    Apart from their captain, the current SFS side playing at the RMBT in the Indian Gymkhana in Matunga feature the tall and athletic forward Terry Fields, who is one of the most exciting dunkers in the team and won the Savio Cup’s Slam Dunk Competition. DJ also mention point guard Limar, who is a fantastic point guard and tough defender.

    Still, it’s not all ‘showtime’ from SFS – At the Savio Cup a few months ago, the Indian Railways side, led by Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, shocked SFS in an exciting finale. SFS have returned for Ramu Memorial with another strong squad, hoping to prove themselves again. “We want to get better each time and keep the fans on the edge of their seat with excitement,” said DJ, “The Savio Cup loss left a bad taste in our mouth but we are back here to win.”

    With two wins in their first two games, it seems that Shooting For Success certainly mean business!

    April 13, 2011

    Woodstock School win Win Mumby 2011

    There was a tiny, yet personally significant news that came out over this last busy weekend. This year, I had spent the past weekend in Mumbai, watching the exciting Indian All Star Game, but the same time last year, I was up in the beautiful mountain-town of Mussoorie, the place where I spent most of my formative boarding school years. I was volunteering at Woodstock School - my alma mater (Renegades 2003 REPRESENT!) - and Woodstock was hosting its biggest event of the year, the All India Win Mumby Basketball Tournament, one of the most important school basketball championships, at least in North India. Some of the best schools from Mussoorie, Dehradun, Delhi, and even Punjab attend this exciting tournament, and last year, it was held for the first time in Woodstock's fancy new gymnasium.

    Anyways, despite all the hype, the Woodstock teams, long heralded as one of the best school teams in the region didn't do well last year - and they haven't been doing too well pretty much since my class graduated (when we won EVERYTHING, including the Afzal Khan). Anyways, the 2011 edition of Win Mumby was sort of a comeback year for the Woodstock Tigers. After long years of suffering, Woodstock Boys finally lifted the Win Mumby trophy in front of a jubilant crowd at the gym.

    The Boys team went on a rampage, beating every team by an average of close to 20 points into the final. The final, against Modern School of Delhi, was perhaps the tightest game, but even then the Tigers prevailed for a 46-35 win. Special shout-out to Coach Phil Jackson aka Mr. Mark. Woodstock's Atif Hussain was named the tournament's MVP.

    Sweet. Go Tigers.

    April 12, 2011

    NBA Playoffs- The Best Absentees

    The playoffs are now only days away and I'm sure that if you're like me, you're barely able to sit still with all the potential drama that's going to follow in the NBA's postseason. But like every postseason, there are always those who aren't good enough to make it. 14 of the NBA's 30 teams are going fishing early, and some of these 14 teams have serious talent, too.

    In the playoffs, we will get a chance to watch the likes of Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and many, many more stars... But before we splurge into the future and see who amongst these will rule the roast, let's take a moment to celebrate those whose season has already ended.

    Steve Nash - Suns: Steve Nash is once again going to be the league leader in assists, and its a shame that he will not be able to step into the postseason to battle once more. The 2-time MVP perhaps saw his finest moment last year when he took the Suns to only a few games away from the NBA Finals. Ever since, Amar'e Stoudemire left and the team has been subpar at best without him. Of course, the 37-year-old point guard's efforts are not to be blamed, as he continues to be one of the strongest players not making an appearance in the post-season.

    Deron Williams - Nets: Oh, poor Deron... Remember him? Just last year he was considered to be perhaps the best point guard in the league. With a mid-season trade to New Jersey, went from a team contesting for a playoff spot to one just hoping to not be the league's worst. His departure saw Utah plummet away playoff contention too, but this perennial playoff superstar will be missed this post-season.

    Kevin Love - Timberwolves: Yes, Love has never made the playoffs before, and no, there wasn't even a chance for the lowly T-Wolves to make it this year, but he is the league leader in rebounds - that has to count for something, right? Hopefully we'll see his hustle in the playoffs soon in the near future.

    Blake Griffin - Clippers: Along with Deron Williams, Kevin Love, and Yao Ming, Griffin is the fourth all-star this season not in the playoffs. Too bad, because the electrifying rookie would've been the toast of the league for a couple of games. At least he'll be able to drown his sorrows with the Rookie of the Year trophy.

    Monta Ellis - Warriors: Some believe Monta is only a few steps away from being one of the most talked-about players in the NBA. After all, he did spend the season averaging 24.1 ppg, which by the way, makes him the highest-scoring player not in the postseason.

    Special Mention - Kevin Martin & Yao* (Rockets), Al Jefferson (Jazz), Stephen Curry & David Lee (Warriors), Brandon Jennings & Andrew Bogut (Bucks), John Wall (Wizards), Tyreke Evans (Kings).

    *Yes, I had to mention Yao.

    And then there are those who are missing due to injury; these guys have teams in playoff contention but we will probably not be seeing them in action this postseason - Caron Butler (Mavericks), David West (Hornets), Greg Oden (Trailblazers). Fans will be wishing to see the likes of Shaq (Celtics) and Udonis Haslem (Heat) return to their squads sometime in the course of the playoffs.

    The NBA - where even the losers are pretty damn good!

    April 11, 2011

    2011 Ramu Memorial Tournament starts in style; Holders IOB eke out close victory

    Mumbai’s most-storied and oldest hoops competition, the All India Ramu Memorial Basketball Tournament (RMBT) at the Indian Gymkhana in Matunga, got off to an intriguing start on Sunday, April 10th as the holders IOB (Chennai) held on for an intense, close victory over the underdog Cochin Customs side. The hosts, Maharashtra, saw their Women’s team dominate South Western Railway for a comfortable 16 point victory.

    The RMBT, which is now in its 27th edition, is being sponsored by United Phosphorus Limited (UPL). The tournament has a lot of history in the city of Mumbai, as it started off in the mid-1960s as a local, inner-city competition, and in the late 70s became the All India tournament that it is today. For a period of 13 years between 1993-2005, the tournament was discontinued, but it has gained momentum again since 2006 and has once again become an essential part of Mumbai’s hoops culture.

    One of the men’s teams that has always been successful at Ramu have been the Indian Overseas Bank – Chennai (IOB), who have won it three times in the last five years, including last year’s edition. Featuring the likes of Hareesh Koroth, Abhilekh Paul, Mihir Pandey, and the legendary S. Robinson, this team rolled in with high expectations but had a surprisingly slow start against Kerala’s Cochin Customs side. In a tight game throughout where neither team could take a huge lead, IOB survived to win 64-63. Paul scored 23 for the winning side while Pandey added 20 to go with 10 rebounds. For Cochin, Eudrick Perreira (17) and S. Monish (16) were the high scorers.

    The first game of the tournament was a rousing victory by home side, Maharashtra Women, against South Western Railway from Karnataka. Smruthi was at her unstoppable best for Maharashtra, scoring 31 points as her team got off to a strong start. They held on to a comfortable 13 point lead at the half and maintained a steady tempo for the rest of the game to win 72-56. Manisha Dange added 17 for Maharasthra, while Savitha had 20 for South Western Railway.

    The last game of the night was an encounter pitting several Indian superstars against each other – Western Railway Men came out to the court to battle Punjab. Western Railway wanted to stamp their dominance early, as they held on to a 10 point lead after a defensively strong first quarter and kept the lead uptil halftime. Punjab made a comeback in the third, but in the end, their efforts weren't strong enough from stopping Western Raiwlay from racing away to a 71-65 victory. Gagan Deep Singh was the star of the show for the winning side, scoring 18 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. Jagdeep Singh, who was named 'Best Player' at the previous night's All Star Game, kept up his good form with 28 points and 8 rebounds for Punjab, but it wasn't enough to secure a victory.

    Vinod Muthukumar, the tournament director, was encouraged by the start to the competition and was looking forward to more interest from the public over the next week. “This year of the RMBT will be a little different and we are hoping to add more excitement and fan interaction,” said Muthukumar, “The Men’s competition, for instance, will see the eight participating sides in two groups, and the best two teams from each group will then play in another round-robin pool. This way, the crowd will get to see more competitive games.”

    The organisers of the tournament are also putting in an extra effort this year to reach out to the fans. The tournament will be shown live throughout on local Mumbai channel YOUSCOD 18. The Semi-Finals on 16th April and Finals on 17th April 2011 will be telecast live on Doordarshan and the Finals will be broadcast live on DD along with live running commentary on All India Radio's FM Gold.

    Muthukumar added, “We are also using our website – ramumemorial.com – as well as our Facebook page, as essential tools to share photos, results, and news.”

    This is also the first year that the US-based side Shooting for Success (SFS) will be taking part in the RMBT. SFS have been a crowd favourite at Mumbai because of their appearances at the Savio Cup. They are considered to be one of the favourites to lift the crown, along with IOB and ONGC.

    April 10, 2011

    Indian All Stars sparkle Mumbai with two electrifying games

    The best basketball players in India came out to put up an extraordinary display of skill, athletic ability, and hoops intelligence at the Mastan YMCA court in Nagpada, Mumbai on Saturday, April 9 at the Indian All Star Games. The finest Indian men and women players, from all across the country, were invited to play in these exhibition matches that produced plenty of thrills and a few dominating performances.

    For both the games, the players were divided into two teams each, WEST and EAST. The toast of the night was definitely Geethu Anna Jose, India’s biggest basketball star, who has recently been invited to tryout with several teams in the US-based basketball league, the WNBA. On Saturday, Geethu was at her dominant best, scoring 41 points in the Women’s All Star Game to lead the Team WEST to a 77-74 victory over Team EAST. In the Men’s game, Team EAST won 95-82.

    The first-of-its-kind event in India was organised by Ibrahim Lakdawala of Lakdawala Developer PVT. LTD.

    In the Women’s game, WEST took an early lead behind Geethu’s unstoppable inside play and support from Indian woman’s captain, Prashanti Singh (21), but sharp-shooting by Delhi’s Raspreet Sidhu (21) kept the EAST close in the game. With WEST holding on to a comfortable eight point lead at the beginning of the last period, EAST began to mount a comeback with a flurry of three-pointers by Bharti Netam, Anju Lakra, and Manisha Dange. But it wasn’t enough and the WEST held on for the three-point victory.

    Hindi film actress Neetu Chandra was an added attraction for the fans present, as she displayed her own hoop skills as part of the Women’s EAST team. Chandra, who has been an active basketball player, has been participating in regularly in basketball events at the Mastan YMCA.

    The Men’s game featured some exciting and athletic play, sharp passes, and fancy lay-ups by some of India’s finest. The EAST side made it a point to be dominant from the very beginning, leading 42-33 at the half and sustaining their strong play for the rest of the game, too. Trideep Rai (21) and Yadwinder Singh (18) did most of the damage from the EAST team, while Jagdeep Singh Bains scored a game-high 22 for WEST. In the end, EAST ran away to a 95-82 victory.


    WINNERS – Women’s WEST & Men’s EAST: Awarded with Rs. 40,000 each.
    RUNNERS-UP – Women’s EAST & Men’s WEST: Awarded with Rs. 25,000 each.
    Most Valuable Player (MVP) – Geethu Anna Jose (Women’s WEST)
    Best Player Awards – Prashanti Singh (Women’s WEST), Raspreet Sidhu (Women’s EAST), & Jagdeep Singh Bains (Men’s WEST).

    Several awards were handed out to the outstanding players of the game, including BlackBerry phones, Laptops, travel bags, Grinder Mixer, and cash.

    The All Star Weekend’s first day was Friday, April 8th when the gathered crowd witnessed a Men’s and Women’s 3-point shooting competition, won by Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Akansha Singh respectively, and a Men’s Slam Dunk contest, where Bhriguvanshi and TJ Sahi were named joint winners.

    April 9, 2011

    Basketball stars align for shooting and dunk show in Mumbai

    It was a curious scene – outside the Mastan YMCA court, was the poor Nagpada area, that of thin lanes, population outbursts, and some of the best kebabs known to man. Enter the court and it was a slightly different world, where the finest Men & Women basketball stars from all across the country gathered together for a novel Indian All Star event. They wore fancy new jerseys, participated in glittering photo shoots, and signed autographs.

    But this was a scene where these two world’s aligned beautifully. The Nagpada area has long been known for being a major hub of basketball activity in India, and it has overseen some of the greatest players, rivalries, and basketball tournaments that have been held in the country over the past several decades. That frenzied energy and fandom for the game is the perfect platform for the two-day All Star event.

    On Friday night, the best shooters in the Men’s and Women’s categories took part in a three-point shooting competition. This was followed by the fan-favourite, Slam Dunk contest, which saw more than one major surprise. And the high-point of this high-energy night came when Punjabi’s point guard Talwinderjit Singh “TJ” Sahi brought out a Mumbai Kali-Peeli (Black & Yellow) taxi to the basketball court, had it parked below the basket, caught a pass from a friend sitting atop the taxi’s carrier, and proceeded to slam it home.

    But the night was about so much more than that – all of the stars of the two teams, which included Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (India Men’s captain), local legend Riyazuddin, Jagdeep Singh, Trideep Rai, Yadwinder Singh, Indian Women’s captain Prashanti Singh, Anitha Paul Durai, Anju Lakra, and many others were presented with their new all star jerseys. They proudly took part in several photo-shoots and were fawned over by the local basketball aspirants. Unlike most of India, the kids in Nagpada don’t want to grow up and bat like Sachin or bowl like Zaheer; they have dreams of dribbling like Riyaz and shooting like Manisha.

    “Mumbai is the best place to promote, not only basketball, but to promote anything at all,” said Prashanti Singh, “In India, basketball is biggest in this city.”

    And the biggest platform in India was presented with India’s biggest performers. A large crowd, comprising of young children, older basketball players, and hundreds of locals from the nearby areas swelled up the court, finding their seats on the ground and on the stands around the court. The night began with the Women’s three-point shooting competition, a large field where 13 of the All-Stars participated.

    Four of the shooters tied with seven three-pointers made in one minute each after the first round – Maharashtra’s own Manisha Dange, and three sharpshooters from Chhattisgarh – Seema Singh, Anju Lakra, and Akansha Singh. When the second round got on for the women, it was Akansha who stood last, making a last second three-pointer to give herself the edge and the win. Dange finished second and Lakra came in third.

    The men’s competition followed, and the field of participants was only half of the women. It made for a stiffer battle, and in the end Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, who made eight threes under a minute, was crowned Men’s three-point champion. TJ Sahi finished second.

    Vishesh came out again to take part in the Slam Dunk competition, and he was joined by Yadwinder Singh, Jagdeep Singh, and TJ Sahi. The rules of the competition were simple – three judges give each player their score out of 10 for each dunk, and there are three rounds. All four of the dunkers wowed the crowd with their athletic ability. And the crowds played happy volunteers, too – it didn’t take more than a slight nudge from Vishesh before several young kids took a seat below the basket for the dunker to jump over them and slam the ball in.

    Sahi, who brought on Mumbai’s famous icon – the Kali-Peeli – had many of the kids sit inside the car to watch him jump and dunk over them. The meter stayed up, and so did Sahi, who brought the house down with his effort. It was unfortunately not enough as Vishesh was able to spring out his own surprise - dunking over a motorcycle - and in the end and score just enough. In the end, the competition ended in a tie for both of India’s top dunkers.

    With the playful festivities of the first day over, the All Star Weekend moves into its main event for Saturday night, when both the women’s and the men’s All Star Games will be played at the Mastan court. The brand new kit has been ironed, the players have practiced, and the crowd is going to start jostling for their seats: are you ready?

    All Star Friday night results

  • Three point shooting competition (Women): 1. Akansha Singh 2. Manisha Dange 3. Anju Lakra
  • Three point shooting competition (Men): 1. Vishesh Bhriguvanshi 2. Talwinderjit Singh Sahi
  • Slam Dunk contest (Men): Talwinderjit Singh Sahi & Vishesh Bhriguvanshi
  • April 8, 2011

    27th All India Ramu Memorial Basketball Tournament to tip off in Mumbai

    One of India’s most prestigious basketball championships, the All India Ramu Memorial Basketball Tournament (RMBT), will return in its 27th edition to the Indian Gymkhana in Matunga (Mumbai) from April 10-17th. The tournament will feature some of the best state and club teams and top Indian players from around the country in both the Men’s and the Women’s division.

    An added attraction to the team list this year is the American-based club squad, Shooting for Success, who have been attending past basketball tournaments like the Savio Cup in Mumbai for several years now.

    Eight men’s teams and four women’s teams will be taking part in RMBT 2011. Once again, the competition will feature a host of international / India stars including Sambhaji Kadam (Services), S. Robinson (IOB-Chennai), Trideep Rai (ONGC), Gagandeep Singh and Amit Parashar (Western Railway), and women’s superstar Geethu Anna Jose (Southern Railway) who has recently received a call-up for a tryout with two WNBA teams.

    Participating teams are:


  • Western Railway
  • IOB (Tamil Nadu)
  • Services
  • ONGC (Uttarakhand)
  • Shooting for Success (USA)
  • Punjab
  • Maharashtra
  • Cochin Customs


  • Southern Railway
  • Maharashtra
  • South West Central Railway
  • Chhattisgarh

    In the Mens’ section comprising of Eight Teams will be made into Two Groups each, top two teams from each group will play Semi-final Super League, and, again, the top two teams, in the Semi-Final Super League will play the finals. Group of 4 teams will play League & top 2 teams will qualify for Semi-Finals. & In the Women’s section it will be Round Robin Basis.

    The men's winners will receive the glittering Ramu Memorial Trophy and a purse of Rs. 1 Lakh. The winning women's team will receive Rs. 50 Thousand and the Kapila Khandvala Shield.

    In addition, there will be 'Player of the Tournament' awards in the Men's and Women's categories.

    Like previous years, the tournament will be played on international standard Teraflex courts and will be held under floodlights in a specially erected stadium. This is being done to reduce injury to the players as well as enhance performances through uninhibited high-profile basketball. As in the past, entry is free for spectators and this is being done especially to promote basketball among students and youth.

    The Semi-Finals on 16th April and Finals on 17th April 2011 will be telecast live on Doordarshan and, the Finals will be broadcast live on All India Radio's FM Gold, thru’ a live running commentary.

    To add to the excitement, 'Predict the Winners', Slam Dunk and Three-Pointer contests for spectators will be held during the competition, where exciting vouchers and gifts will be distributed.

    Ramu Memorial Basketball tournament had virtually become a household name, with people from all walks of life and all ages thronging the venue to witness and cheer top quality basketball being dished out by players of the likes of Haridutt, Mathew Satyababu, Hanuman Singh, Abbas Montassir, Ajmer Singh, Sajjan Singh, Khusiram, Ramkumar, the towering giant Sunil Kumar Panda, Shyamlal, Balkar Singh, C.N.Sharma, Vijayraghavan and host of others.

    Check out the tournament's official website - RamuMemorial.com for more details, photographs, live scores, and much more!
  • April 7, 2011

    Kemba Walker & some UConn brilliance

    Now, I will be the first to admit that I don't know right from left when it comes to NCAA basketball in the States. Since barely any games or promotion is done in India, it is only out of curiousity that I know anything at all about it. It is important for me, for instance, to know where the world's best basketball player in the NBA came from, or what kind of challenges and competition they had in their younger years.

    But otherwise, there is very little other interest. Yes, I know, as those who swear about college ball will say, that the games are perhaps more exciting sometimes. Most teams are closely matched, the atmosphere in the games are excellent, and the players seem to try harder. But I'm not completely sold on it. I hate the idea of 35-second shot clocks, shorter three-point lines, and lots and lots and lots of really bad offense.

    Still, every once in a while, a story comes out that even the least interest ones can't help but follow. The story this year, I believe, has been of University of Connecticut (UConn) point guard Kemba Walker. A solid but generally unspectacular player in his first season, he improved in year two, and by the time he was a Junior, he became one of the best players in the country, making the biggest plays all year and leading his team to a National Championship title. His clutch play, and leadership has already become stuff of legend. And his buzzer-beaters have taken YouTube by storm!

    Walker is a slashing quick guard, known for this ball-handling ability and accurate jump-shot. At 6 foot, he may be a tad bit undersized, but in today's NBA, a league that favours the confident, fast small men, he could blend in easily.

    UConn capped off a fairytale run in the NCAA tournament by leading the Huskies past Kentucky in the Final Four, and then beating Butler 53-41 in an ugly, high-on-defense-low-on-offense game in the Final to win the National Championship on April 4th. It was the UConn Huskies' third championship in the last 11 years. Jeremy Lamp also played a crucial role in the second half of the Championship game. Walker was named the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

    His only shortcoming was being snubbed for the Naismith Men's College Player of the Year award, which went to another small guard, Jimmer Fredette of BYU. "The Jimmer", who has also had an outstanding season, may have shown his brilliance when it came to individual scoring, but in my opinion, this award should've been Walker's all along.

    Now, to judge how successful college players will be in the NBA, I rely almost exclusive on my favourite scouting website, DraftExpress. At this point, Walker, if he goes pro, as been ranked as the 6th overall pick in the 2011 draft. From afar, it seems to be a year without any guaranteed future pro superstars, but I'll be rooting for Kemba to fight amongst the likes of Kyrie Irving, Harrison Barnes, Derrick Williams, Perry Jones, and Brandon Knight.

    And for my interest in college ball? Let's hope someone can figure out to show more of the NCAA tournament games in India next year. Maybe, just maybe, I'll start to warm up to it.

    April 6, 2011

    Indian Basketball star Geethu Anna Jose invited for tryouts with two WNBA teams

    Geethu Anna Jose, the legendary Indian Center, has finally been given a shot at her WNBA dream. The superstar who captained Indian Women’s team at the FIBA Women’s Asia Basketball Championship (ABC) in Chennai (2009), has been given the rare honour as she was invited to a tryouts with two WNBA teams in the USA – the Chicago Sky and the Los Angeles Sparks.

    Jose (25), who was the leading scorer at the Chennai ABC, become the first Indian player to get the top scorer honour at any ABC. She has represented India in several major tournaments, including the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia and the 2010 Asian Games basketball championship in Guangzhou (China).

    Jose is currently working for Southern Railway in Chennai, and, representing Indian Railways, has won seven consecutive National Basketball Championship titles. She was also the first Indian women to play professionally in Australia, when she represented the Ringwood Hawks, a lower division team in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), and won the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2008.

    “I have waited a long time for this opportunity – I can’t believe that it’s finally here.” said Jose, “It has been my dream to play at the highest level – the WNBA. It does not matter which team gives me the opportunity there – I just want to compete.”

    The six-foot tall Jose has admitted that she will have to adapt to the power forward position when trying out with taller women in the US. She will travel to Chicago and Los Angeles to try out with the Sky and the Sparks – the Sparks have been one of the most successful teams in the WNBA, winning two championships and three conference titles in the last 10 years.

    Jose has conveyed her sincere thanks to her employer Southern Railway, Mr. Harish Sharma of the BFI, and Troy Justice, the Director, NBA India Operations, for all their whole hearted support. She also thanked the Hindustan Group of Institutions, who have come forward to sponsor the tour for Jose to USA. “I will try my best to give a good performance in the tryouts,” she added.

    The BFI's Harish Sharma said, “This is an incredible opportunity for Geethu Anna Jose. We are delighted for her and everyone who supports basketball in India will hope and pray for her success with the tryouts. She was offered the same opportunity last year, but due to complications she couldn’t make it – we are glad that this time, her dream is one step closer to realisation.”

    “This has been one major step for us at BFI at promoting Indian players throughout the world,” Sharma added, “We will be looking to support such opportunities for other basketball players in India as well – the more players that proper outside of India, the more prosperity they will be bringing to the game of basketball in India.”

    Anand Jacob Verghese, the CEO of Hindustan Group and Pro Chancellor, Hindustan University expressed his happiness in supporting Geethu. "The Indian cricket team has made all of us proud by winning the World Cup," said Verghese, "Now it is the turn of Geethu: she will be a role model for students. I wish that she gets the ultimate honour: a WNBA selection."

    Jose will leave for the USA in about two weeks. She will participate in the Ramu Memorial Basketball Tournament in Mumbai before that.

    UPDATE: Along with tryouts scheduled with the WNBA teams Chicago Sky and LA Sparks which were announced over a week ago, Indian Basketball star has now been invited to tryout and practice with a third WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) team during her USA trip: the San Antonio Silver Stars. Jose will be in America from April 23 – May 8, during which time she will be the first ever Indian basketball player to get an opportunity to try out for the WNBA.