October 31, 2011

How to bring an NBA game to India

Blah blah blah there's a lockout going on blah blah No telling when the NBA will return blah blah this is all very pointless blah blah blah

Just wanted to get the lockout-induced existential crisis out of my system.

During my summer of lockout discontent of being deprived of America's (and the world's) finest basketball league, two other events occurred in different parts of the world. These events were unrelated, but together, they can combine to make a dream come true for an Indian NBA fan: bringing an NBA pre-season game to India, and if the lockout doesn't allow that, bringing NBA stars to play an exhibition game here, much like they have been planning for other countries in their All Star World Tour.

Event 1: On July 23-24, 2011, some of the NBA's finest players, including Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, and Chris Paul, were invited to play an exhibition game in Philippines against the Philippines 'Smart Gilas' national team and against the all stars of the Filipino league. Because the NBA was in lockout, Kobe, Rose etc were there not representing the league but were instead on hire by a wealthy Filipino Manuel V. Pangilinan. I learnt most of the best information about this historic event in the basketball-crazed country from a fantastic Grantland article by Rafe Bartholomew.

Event 2: This took place much closer, in time and in space, to us Indians. Having prepared our first ever international Grand Prix racing circuit - the Buddh International Circuit in Noida - the first ever F1 race, the Indian Grand Prix during the weekend of October 28-30, 2011. Somehow, the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI), and a private company called the Jaypee Group, were able to host perhaps the most technologically-advanced sport in the world in India and host it pretty damn smoothly.

So this is what I started thinking. If a country like the Philippines (similar to India in many ways) can bring in NBA stars, and India can bring in a major sporting event like an F1 event (similar to an NBA event in several ways), why can't someone combine the two and bring an NBA event to India?

First, let's talk about how these events took place: The Philippines All Star game was made possible because of the vision of one very rich Filipino businessman, Manuel V. Pangilinan, who because of his cool initials is also known as MVP. He is a telecommunications mogul in the Philippines, and more important for our story, a HUGE basketball fan. The Philippines, in general, are filled with a basketball craze like no other, perhaps matched by craze us Indians have for cricket.

So what does MVP do? He brings together nine NBA players free from NBA obligations to his country, and pays them around $400,000 dollars each for the weekend (speculative sum, the exact amount was not revealed). The infrastructure in the country's capital of Manila wasn't going to be much of an issue because of the country's history with the game. MVP's trump card in this event was the ticket price: the Grantland story I mentioned above states: To ensure a packed house, the organizers deliberately kept ticket prices low. Courtside seats were sold at the box office for $129 and general admission tickets for about $8.. Patty Scott, CEO of an American company that worked with MVP in organising this event, said: "This wasn't about making money. It was about MVP's legacy and giving Filipinos a basketball event they've always dreamed of."

Now, NBA players have been to play exhibitions in many countries before, why is this Philippines parallel important? This is because the Philippines is a country much like India in the mixture of growth and chaos, in affluence and in poverty, in ambition and in corruption. So, it is a country where private organisations can achieve what the less organised/corrupt government-run things may not be able to.

Sound familiar? India is the goddamn KING of private-based success. Our software, outsourcing, telecommunications, education, infrastructure, and so many other fields have mostly thrived despite the government, not because of it. When the government tried their best to give a recent world-class sporting event, they gave us the Commonwealth Games. When a bunch of non-government organisations tried to do it, they organised the near-flawless Indian Grand Prix.

Which brings us to our second event. If the Philippines had MVP making basketball dreams come true, India had Jaiprakash Gaur (Chairman of Jaypee Group), Vicky Chandok (President of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India - FMSCI), Vijay Mallya (Chairman FSMCI, owner of India's 1st F1 team Force India, and the man behind everything that Kingfisher does - from beer to airlines to hot women). The Jaypee Group invested the money in building the track and hosting the Grand Prix. The FMSCI brought the organisational expertise. Both had the clout to attract their rich sponsor friends.

Learning from the Commonwealth Games fiasco, the F1 organisers kept the media at bay until the last moment, and thus, didn't allow them to critisize the negative points before celebrating the positives. Its not like there weren't glitches suffered. Some complained of dust, some laughed at the stray dog who wandered on the track during an official practice session. But in the country of the CommonWealth Games, in the state of Mayawati, we had a track completed in time, matching all the safety conditions and afterwards, garnered high praise from the world's best drivers.

F1, like the NBA, has been reaching out into Asia: both sporting bodies have realised the profits that Asia's great population and growing spending power can bring. F1 Racing is a rich man's sport, with rich drivers, rich manufactures, rich sponsors, and rich fans. NBA Basketball rich, too: rich players, rich owners, rich sponsors, but what separates the two is the fans - since basketball can be played anywhere with any type of arrangement, unlike the expensive racing world, anyone can be a basketball fan.

Watching the two sports in their arenas, though, is a slightly pricier affair. In India, there were about a 95,000 rich F1 fans at the race on Sunday, with basketball being a sport for the common man and all, will we be able to bring in enough people to fill in an arena to watch NBA stars? Or will the organiser in India do what MVP did in the Philippines: keep the ticket price low to satisfy the common Indian fan. The problem of course is that the common sports fan in the Philippines is likely to be a basketball lover to the core, while the common sports fan in India will recognise Sachin Tendulkar's back before recognising Derrick Rose's face. Unlike MVP, who wanted to satisfy the average Filipino to build his legacy, it may seem fruitless to an Indian organiser to do the same in India if there just aren't that many people craving for the sport. Unless, of course, the organiser is completely nuts about basketball and also really, really, very, extremely, crazy rich.

Even though basketball is a far more accessible sport than motor-racing, F1 does have a head start to the NBA in India The F1 has an Indian connection: Indian racers Narain Karthickeyen and Karun Chandhok participate amongst the top drivers in the world, and India has its own F1 team - Force India - owned by Vijay Mallya. Maybe NBA in India will be a better idea if an Indian player makes it to the NBA first, and/or an Indian owns an NBA team. The second part of this is already kind of true: look up Vivek Ranadivé, the Indian part-owner of the Golden State Warriors.

Overall, both the F1 in India and the NBA stars in The Philippines proved that world class, glamorous, and potentially-complicated events can be held in developing countries as long as we find the correct mixture of a lot of passion and a lot of money. India has people passionate about basketball and yes, we now have a lot of rich people off private empires. All that is left to do is find someone with the right combination of the two.

Now of course, the NBA will not always be in lockout, so the MVP-model in Philippines may not be necessarily carbon-copied. What I hope for is a pre-season/exhibition game, between any two NBA teams in India (I'd prefer Knicks-Heat, but any two would do, really... Because of the Ranadivé connection, a Warriors game makes sense.) NBA preseason games have already been held in different parts of Asia over the last few years, including China, Japan, and Taiwan. If Bernie Ecclestone, the President/CEO of F1 Management, could be romanced by the idea of the opening his company further in the NBA market, then NBA Commissioner David Stern should think about it too. After all, NBA promotion has already been running at full speed for the last few years in India: tying up with a private Indian organiser to build an arena that is satisfactory to NBA needs, and then keeping the costs relatively low for the Indian fans (Is that really possible though?) will be the key to fulfilling the dream of our first NBA exhibition game here.

Yes, I'm a big NBA fan in India, who dreams of seeing this happen because of my love for the game. But there is one other reason. When the Indian F1 race on Sunday was won by Germany's Sebastian Vettel, he was handed the trophy by none other than Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and the world's most feared woman, Mayawati. Trust me, I would give at least half a limb to see the great Behenji and Kobe Bryant in the same frame.

Please make this dream come true. If you're a basketball crazy Indian multi-millionaire, you need to contact me. Now.

October 29, 2011

China win U16 FIBA ABC; India impress but finish at 10th place

At the recently concluded 2nd U16 FIBA Asia Basketball Championship, in Nha Trang City, Vietnam, India's Youth side finished at an unflattering 10th place out of 16 participants. The final standing was no improvement to our standing at this competition two years ago, where we had finished 10th too.

And yet, the players and coaches who represented the country in Vietnam, and the fans who followed their every move, couldn't help but feel a sense of optimism about India's incredible performance. Impressing opponents and fans alike with their considerably improved play, India, perhaps for the first time on the Asian stage, have given a warning with their performance about the things to come. As this current crop of talented youngsters grow up, and more are added to the system, Indian basketball has definitely taken a step in the right direction.

But first: respect must go to the tournament's eventual champions, China, the most dominating and the only undefeated team at the championship. China continued their dominance in the final of the tournament as they blew past Korea 92-52 for their second consecutive gold medal of this competition on Friday.

China had an air of invincibility about them as they went about their business against a potentially tricky opponent in the final. Zhou Qi of China had a final to remember, scoring a tournament-high 43 points to lead his side to a 40-point victory, 16 of which came in the second quarter which opened the gap between the two sides.

Korea’s best player on the night was Hae Hoon, who pitched in 19 points for his side that had to settle for the silver medal.

The finalists China and Korea have both qualified for the 2nd U17 FIBA World Championship which will be held in Kaunas, Lithuania, in 2012.

Earlier in the day, Japan defeated the Phillipines with a disciplined effort 94-81 to claim the bronze medal. Japan were led on the scoresheet by Dalki Kaneko (25 points), Yusel Sugiura (21), Yudal Baba (17), and Kelta Shinkawa (16).

India's coach Jai Prakash 'JP' Singh did not use a fixed starting lineup for the eight games his side played, giving the most amount of minutes to Ajay Pratap Singh, Loveneet Singh, Rakesh Sangwan, Narender Satyawan, Satnam Singh Bhamara, and Karthickeyan Saminathan.

India were grouped in the Preliminary Stage of the tournament with China, Malaysia, and Chinese Taipei. It was international baptism by fire for most of the Indian players as they were caught in the Chinese roller coaster, losing 27-64 in their first game to the tournament's eventual champs. China were bigger, faster, and more experienced than the Indian side, which featured only one player - seven-foot-one, 15-year-old Punjabi phenon Satnam Singh Bhamara - with any major international experience.

But the tournament only improved for India after that: in their second game against Malaysia, India started hot to thrash their opponents, 93-40. India were led by Karthickeyen Saminathan (18 points). Loveneet Singh accounted for 8 points in the first quarter to lead the Indian charge and went on to score 16 points. Ajay Pratap Singh contributed 17 points, 5 of them coming in the first quarter. And in limited time of just one quarter, Satnam scored 16 points.

In the final group game, India pulled off one of the major upsets of the tournament, clocking a memorable 73-52 victory against Chinese Taipei. India shut down Taipei early in the game, and then rode the three-point prowess of Ajay Pratap Singh (25) and Karthickeyen Saminathan (18) to prevail. India's improving defense was a major cause of this win, something that coach JP Singh noted in his interview with FIBA.com. The win helped India finish at 2nd place in their group.

In the tournament's Second Round, India were slated to face three tough teams: Lebanon, Korea, and Iraq, and despite strong efforts in all three games, India couldn't find a single victory. A loss in a loss in any language, but playing against teams that are used to defeating us by 30 points and then holding them to near-even terms shows the improving stature of the Indian side. After a close game in the first half, Lebanon's offense finally broke free from India's stingy defense and rode their way to a second round vicory, 77-65. Jimmy Salem led the scoring for Lebanon and the game with 22 points with Gerard Hadidian contributing 20 points, his third successive 20-or-more score in the competition. Albert Zeinoun had 21 points. India were led by Loveneet Singh, who had 16.

One of India's high-points of the championship was their loss to eventual runners-up Korea: Satnam Singh Bhamara finally broke free and scored 41 points (second highest individual score in the tournament), keeping India tied with the Asian powerhouses up till the start of the fourth quarter! Korea's Heo Hoon, who sat out the entire first quarter nursing a painful ankle, made an entry midway through the second and went on to lead Korea’s scoring with an all-round 31 points. Level at 47 at the end of the third, Korea opened a 19-10 blitz in the first five minutes of the final quarter. Heo had 14 of his points in the fourth quarter. Kim Gookchan had 18 points.

Satnam continued his inspired run against Iraq, as he once again dominated the post for 32 points. India started off well again, but Iraq came into their stead in the second quarter to take a lead and not give it up again. India stayed close throughout, however, and leveled the scores in the final period after free throws by Kushmeet Singh, but Iraq's Ahmed Razzaq (27) scored a couple of clutch baskets to give his team the eventual 72-64 win. Karrar Hamzah added 21 for Iraq.

Because of these losses, India failed to qualify for the Quarter-Final stage and had to settle for 9-12 place playoffs. They played in the first playoff game against the home side Vietnam in what became India's most dominating offensive and defensive performance of the tournament. Using stifling defense, India held Vietnam to just 19 points after the first three quarter as they cruised to a 107-40 victory. Vietnam were no match for India, who dominated the game from start to finish. Ajay Pratap Singh posted 20 points in the first half before being rested for the rest of the game. JP Singh introduced Satnam Singh Bhamara in the third quarter, where the young Center scored a further 19 points. Loveneet Singh scored 20 points for India, while Rakesh Sangwan added 16.

In their last game of the championship, India were set for a rematch against Chinese Taipei for the 9th place. It turned out to be a heartbreaking game for India, as Lu Kuan-Shiuan’s three-pointer, with less than three seconds left in the game, helped Chinese Taipei fashion a resurgent 61-60 win. India held the edge on the scoreboard for the better part of the first half, but Taipei unleashed a 15-2 run through the start of the third quarter and went on to build a 10-point lead. India seemed to recover from that deficit and kept the score close and were ahead 60-58 with 20 seconds left on the clock, when coach JP Singh took a time-out. Taipei having run out of time-outs pounced on the opportunity to plot their play, and after the usual rotation, Wang I-Feng drew the rival defense towards and sent the ball to Lu. Who had had no trouble in firing the match-winner in. I-Feng had 17 points for Taipei, while India were led once again by Satnam Singh Bhamara, who had 29.

Thus, India finished the tournament with a 3-5 record. We were led individually in scoring by Satnam Singh Bhamara, who averaged 19.3 points per game in the course of the championship. What makes it more amazing is that Satnam was only the starting five for perhaps half of the games played. Ajay Pratap Singh (13.1 ppg) and Loveneet Singh (10.3 ppg) were regular offensive options. Rakesh Sangwan and Karthickeyen Saminathan also pitched in valuable contributions for the Indian side.

Of course, there is the disappointing after-taste of 'what could've been?' with many of the games we played. The losses to Korea and Iraq hurt especially, since we were so close so late into these match-ups, and of course, our final seconds loss to Chinese Taipei, after holding on to a two-point lead, didn't settle easy in the stomach either. But the fact that we are getting this close is a marvel in itself. The fact that we defeated Taipei by 21 points in an earlier game, and that we completely destroyed the likes of Malaysia and Vietnam (teams who are close to equal to us) makes me very optimistic.

This is a talented and deep team with good defensive fundamentals, and the likes of Ajay Pratap Singh and Loveneet Singh will be stars to watch for India in the future. Ajay Pratap Singh finished with the best assists average (4 apg) in the entire tournament! And then there is the case of the unpolished but dominating big man, Satnam Singh Bhamara. Still over a month away from his 16th birthday, this seven-footer had a coming-out party at the tournament in Vietnam. It isn't just the points he scored, it was the frequency with which he scored them, even when he was handed limited minutes. At 19.3 ppg, Satnam was the leading scorer of the entire championship!

A student-athlete at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Satnam has had a big year, as he made his debut with India's Senior national team in MAZ Qualifiers in India, and later, was part of the squad that performed poorly at the 26th FIBA Asia Championship in Wuhan. His play was very limited in that championship, but amongst his own age group in Vietnam, he was unstoppable. What makes Satnam's improvement so much more amazing is that the youngster seems to continue having a level-head and surprising maturity: In an interview with FIBA, Satnam made it clear that he puts team first. Here are some of his quotes from that interview:

"I only wish I had scored half as many points in any of those games, and we had entered the quarterfinals. Only then my performance can be spoken about."

"I feel a lot more confident now. I am not scared of any situation anymore."

"The way I want to contribute is not only by scoring 40 points, but also stopping 40 points. That way I think my contribution to the team will be more valuable."

Satnam will now return to India, perhaps to take part in an Indian Juniors camp in Delhi, or perhaps to return to the IMG Academy in Florida, USA, straight away. We hope he keeps improving either way, and so do this current Youth team. They could come together again in a year or two when India play in U18 international championship, and we'll see then if this side can learn to find a way of winning more close games.

Congrats again to China, by the way, who are just looking scary good from all angles in basketball right now. China is dominating every Asian-level tournament is taking part in. And the future looks good for them too: it will be a long time before any other basketball playing country in Asia can replace them at the number 1 spot.

October 28, 2011

The Super MVPs

Super MVP: A player who wins both the NBA regular season MVP and the NBA Finals MVP award in the same season.

This article started in my mind several months before my fingers typed it out: it started with a discussion with my brother about the factors that define the legacies of the NBA's greatest ever players. As far as quantifiable measures go, a players' greatness can be determine by the championships he wins, the MVP awards he collects, and the statistics he posts up. Other factors such as all-star appearances, all-NBA teams, defensive player awards, and overall season/playoff games won also add to the argument.

Above all the other individual accolades that could be handed out to a player is the MVP Award. Since it was first given out to Bob Pettit in 1956, the MVP award - known as the Maurice Podoloff trophy - has been handed out 55 times to 29 players. Heralded to individual glory as this award may be, it does carry a sort of a curse with it (which I wrote about over a year ago): Only 20 times since 1956 has the NBA, MVP won the NBA Championship: only 12 players have lifted both trophies in the same season. Since Michael Jordan retired, only Shaq (2000) and Duncan (2003) have been an MVP and an NBA Champion in the same year.

Realising how difficult it is - and how much more difficult it is becoming - to win both these trophies in the same year, I have come up with a new award, handed out trademarked by the Hoopistani Blog: THE SUPER MVP. Since the 'best' player in the league, the Most Valuable Player, is thus most likely to also be the Finals MVP if his team wins a championship in the same season, this player would be that season's Super MVP.

The Finals MVP award was introduced in 1969, and in that very first year, it was handed to someone who lost in the Finals: Jerry West. West averaged 38 ppg for the Lakers in a 4-3 Finals loss to - who else? - but Boston Celtics! Since then, the subsequent 42 Finals MVP awards have always gone to a champion, a trend that I hope continues to make my Super MVP award relevant.

The year 1980 was also one other curious exception to the trend. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the regular season MVP and the NBA Championship with the Lakers in the same season. But the Finals MVP Award that year went to a rookie Magic Johnson, who, in Kareem's injury absence, did some things which were unfathomably incredible. Sorry, but that shifts Kareem's 1980 season out of the Super MVPs list, although he does make the lineup much earlier.

The 'NBA Finals MVP Award' wasn't introduced till 1969. In 2009, Commissioner David Stern announced that he is renaming the award to honour celtics' legendary Center Bill Russell by calling it the 'Bill Russell Finals MVP Award'. That is ironic, of course, because Russell retired in 1969 without ever having won the award. Beforethis award was started, there were only five instances in NBA History when a regular season MVP won the NBA Championship in the same season. Since these players were considered to be the NBA's best for that season, and they won a championship, I'm going to assume that they count as Finals MVPs, and hence, 'Super MVPs', too.

- 1957: Bob Cousy (Celtics)*
- 1961: Bill Russell (Celtics)*
- 1962: Bill Russell (Celtics)*
- 1963: Bill Russell (Celtics)*
- 1965: Bill Russell (Celtics)*
- 1967: Wilt Chamberlain (76ers)*
- 1980: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lakers)**

*Won an MVP and an NBA Championship before the Finals MVP Award was introduced
**Won an MVP and an NBA Championship but not the Finals MVP Award.

And here is my list of the NBA's Super MVPs after the Finals MVP award was introduced:

- 1970: Wills Reed (Knicks)
- 1971: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Bucks)
- 1983: Moses Malone (Sixers)
- 1984: Larry Bird (Celtics)
- 1986: Larry Bird (Celtics)
- 1987: Magic Johnson (Lakers)
- 1991: Michael Jordan (Bulls)
- 1992: Michael Jordan (Bulls)
- 1994: Hakeem Olajuwan (Rockets)
- 1996: Michael Jordan (Bulls)
- 1998: Michael Jordan (Bulls)
- 2000: Shaquille O'Neal (Lakers)
- 2003: Tim Duncan (Spurs)

It is an impressive and exclusive collection of NBA superstars. Michael Jordan makes that list four times, and Larry Bird twice. In two occasions, Abdul-Jabbar won the MVP award and the championship in the same season, but with different teams. And before the award was introduce, it's namesake Bill Russell had an incredible four seasons where he lifted both the MVP award and the NBA Championship trophy. As the last one to achieve this feat, Tim Duncan is the honorary holder of my Super MVP award.

The rarity of being a Super MVP is what makes the feat that much more incredible. There are too many players who have a good season to win an MVP award but never add the ring to their resumes: Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and Allen Iverson (barring his return to the NBA) are perhaps the first three names that come to my mind with the 'incomplete' legacy. A lot of former MVPs do on to become smarter players in better teams and win championships in later seasons, such as Julius 'Dr J' Erving, David Robinson, Kevin Garnett, and most recently, Dirk Nowitzki. Amongst the current crop of players, the likes of Steve Nash, LeBron James, and Derrick Rose are those who will be looking to add some championship hardware to their individual accolade.

Then, are are also many players who have never had a complete, dominating MVP season, but because of their team-play and/or their individual brilliance in the Finals, have won the championship and the Finals MVP award: John Havlicek, Rick Barry, Jo Jo White, Dennis Johnson, Cedric Maxwell, James Worthy, Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas, Chauncey Billups, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, and Paul Pierce are the names who belong in this category.

So what does all this say? Considered damn-near-unanimously as the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT), Michael Jordan has also achieved the perfect combination of individual dominance and team success more often that anyone else. And if we counted those before 1969, 11-time-champ Bill Russell equals Jordan's four 'Super MVP' seasons.

And as we await the possibility of the locks to be opened for the new NBA season, and as the predictions for the champions and the MVPs pour in, I'll be keeping my eye out to see if someone can achieve the difficult combination of the two. If someone can emulate Jordan, Bird, Duncan, or Shaq for one season. If someone can finally become a Super MVP again.

October 24, 2011

Indian Navy’s victory highlights finale of the Royal Club Basketball Tournament New Delhi

In a thrilling finale, Indian Navy survived to defeat Captain’s Club to lift the Men’s trophy of the Royal Club Basketball Tournament, one of the oldest and most prestigious basketball tournaments in New Delhi, at the Montfort School in Ashok Vihar on Sunday. It was the 50th Golden Jubilee year of this tournament.

In the College Women’s section, Indira Gandhi Institute of Sports Sciences & Physical Education (IGI) beat Lady Sri Ram College (LSR) for a win. The School Boys division of the tournament was won by GD Goenka who beat DPS (Mathura Road) in the final game.

The tournament featured a total of 33 teams in three sections: Men, College Women, and School Boys.

Trailing by one point at halftime in the Men’s final, Indian Navy went neck to neck with Captain’s Club in the close game and outlasted them for a thrilling 82-78 win. Indian Navy were led by big performances by Soji Cherian (24 points), Mandeep (23) and Vipin (17 points). Praveen had a game-high 29 for Captain’s while Vinay added 17 for the losing side.

The College Women’s final was dominated by IGI, who were led by internationally experienced players like Sonika Ohylan, Pratima Singh, and Raspreet Sidhu. Sonika, who was later named the tournament’s best player, led the way with 26 points in the final where IGI led LSR throughout for a breezy 71-45 win. Pratima Singh added 24 points in the final, while for LSR, new recruit Chinmayee had 16.

The School Boys final was also an easy game for GD Goenka, who defeated DPS (MR) by 60-31. Goenka were led by Dhruv (17 points) while Roopender had 23 in a losing effort for DPS.

Final Scores

  • Senior Men: Indian Navy (Soji Cherian 24, Vipin 23) bt. Captain’s Club (Praveen 29, Vinjay 17, Sumit 12, Vipin Dalviya 10) 82-78 (HT: 44-45).
  • College Women: IGI (Sonika Ohylan 26, Pratima Singh 24, Raspreet Sidhu 12) bt. LSR (Chinmayee 16, Shivangi 15) 71-45 (HT: 36-26).
  • School Boys: GD Goenka (Dhruv 17, Raghuvendra 14) bt. DPS (Mathura Road) (Roopender 23) 60-31 (HT: 22-11).

    Best Player Awards

  • Senior Men: Ashu (Indian Navy)
  • College Women: Sonika Ohylan (IGI)
  • School Boys: Dhruv Barman(GD Goenka)
  • October 21, 2011

    NBA's biggest stars plan exhibition world tour

    Thus far, it has been an unusual off-season to the NBA, where the locked-out league saw failed negotiations between the owners at the players reach a point where actual regular season games got cancelled. Meanwhile, the locked-out players found their own way to have fun with hoops, playing exhibition games all around the USA, and for one magical week, in the Philippines, too.

    If you were like me, you woke up this morning to even more depressing news about the lockout, that the bitter rift between the two sides widened and talks broke down. Well, here is some measure of good news coming via the NBA's players and a soon to be very popular Atlanta business mogul.

    ESPN reported yesterday on what could be the mother of all lockout exhibition programmes: The NBA's finest players - pretty much ALL OF ITS FINEST PLAYERS, instead of a few here and there like the previous exhibitions - will be going on a two-week world tour, touching four countries in four different continents, and playing exhibition basketball games. It's the Beatles in Basketball form.

    Of course, nothing is finalised yet, and a twist in the lockout negotiations story could change everything, so know that what you read ahead is only tentative.

    Participating players? According to ESPN, the players taking part in this tour could include: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Amar'e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Rajon Rondo, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Carlos Boozer, Paul Pierce, Kevin Love, Kevin Garnett, and Tyson Chandler.

    No this is NOT a list of the NBA's best players, this is a list of players who could face each other in these international super all star games. The only notable exceptions from this list are Dirk Nowitzki (probably resting after the Euro Basket), Dwight Howard (who has already visited 15 countries this summer), Deron Williams (currently playing professionally in Turkey), and Pau Gasol (practicing with FCB Barcelona).

    The tour, scheduled to be held from October 30 - November 9th, will make stops in Puerto Rico, London, Macau, and Australia. Two games each will be played at sites in London and Australia.

    (Before you ask: sorry, there's no word yet on whether Kobe/LeBron/Wade etc will be dunking on each other at Mumbai's Nagpada or Ludhiana's Guru Nanak Stadium anytime soon.)

    Here's more about this Superstar World Tour from ESPN.com, as reported by Chris Broussard:

    Atlanta business mogul Calvin Darden has been putting the tour together with the players' agents for nearly three months. He has already obtained signed contracts from Bryant, Wade, Bosh, Griffin, Rondo and Pierce. Sources say he's hoping to complete the rest of the agreements, along with insurance requirements, over the next few days.
    Even so, sources warned that the tour has not yet been finalized and there's still a chance it could unravel.

    Darden is hoping to broadcast the games in as many international markets as possible and perhaps in the United States as well.
    The players will be paid, receiving salaries ranging from six figures up to $1 million, sources said. Some of the money generated by the tour will be donated to charity.
    The tour would be the biggest lockout event NBA players have ever staged.

    Beyond the salaries the players will receive and the overseas venues, this tour is different in that the rosters will be comprised completely of All-Star caliber players.

    Darden, the former senior vice president of U.S. operations for UPS, sits on the boards of Target, Coca-Cola and Cardinal Health. He is also the chairman of his own real estate development company, The Darden Development Group. In 2002, Fortune magazine named Darden the eighth-highest ranking black executive in America.

    My friends, wherever you are, let's take a moment to get up from our seats and give a slow clap for The Talented Mr. Darden right now for potentially pulling off something massive like this. On second thought, let's hold the applause until this tour is actually finalised.

    Meanwhile, the NBA's owners and players are not letting you and me and all the other fans enjoy the league we so love over a difference of 2.5 percent.

    October 19, 2011

    A RiDirkulous Summer

    A reputation - good or bad - is a hard thing to gain, and an even harder thing to lose. Rightly or wrongly, there are certain reputations that NBA fans attach to certain players and teams, and these reps end up sticking to the players (for better or worse) for the majority of their careers.

    Kobe is clutch, Kobe is selfish. LeBron is a choker. Durant is a nice guy. The Spurs are boring. Gasol is soft. The Lakers are flashy.

    But reputations, at best, are simply a lazy man's description of things that he may not have the time or the motivation to delve further into. It's easier to describe someone in one word than worry about all the details, even if, from a different angle, those details prove the reputation wrong.

    For the better part of the past decade, I've been guilty of this several times with Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks, all up till the NBA Finals concluded this June. And this despite the fact that the Mavs have had their shares of success in this period: In 2011, the Mavs completed their 11th consecutive 50 win season. The only team to have had as much regular season success as them in this period have been the Spurs. But the difference between the Spurs and the Mavs was that, in the last 12 seasons, the Spurs had won four NBA Championships. The Mavs had finished with the NBA's best record, even entered the Finals, but never won a ring to show for it.

    During this period, they had some great highs, but what was worse was the spectacular falls. These included losing the NBA Finals to Miami in 2006 after being up 2-0, losing in the first round to the bottom-seeded Warriors after finishing with the best record in the league in 2007, and in 2010, despite being the number two seed, they lost in the first round to the seventh-seeded Spurs.

    The reputation so far: The Mavericks are a great regular season team, and will be trouble for anyone facing them in the playoffs, but don't place your championship bets on them anytime soon.

    And then there was their leader, Dirk Nowitzki. One of the best scorers that the NBA has ever seen, Dirk's rise and fall matched that of his squad. He got the credit for their regular season successes and their few long playoff runs, but he also got the blame for their lack in mental strength, their shattering playoff defeats and upsets. Before the 2010-11 season, Nowitzki had an All Star nine times, named to the All NBA first team four times, in the second team five times, and won the regular season MVP in 2007. Meanwhile, he became the franchise's greatest ever scorer, and became one of the most unstoppable scorers in NBA history.

    But Dirk was not considered to be tough enough, mentally and physically, for the 'hardcore' NBA Playoffs. Despite being part of a balanced franchise with numerous supporting players over the past decade, he could never get it done.

    (*Sidenote: At various points in the past 11 years, the Mavs have fielded some of the NBA's most deepest squad besides Dirk, including Steve Nash, Michael Finley, Antawn Jamison, Antoine Walker, Nick Van Exel, Josh Howard, leading up to his supporting cast today of Jason Terry, Carol Butler, Shaun Marion, Jason Kidd, and Tyson Chandler)

    Dirk though, did earn my respect during this period in one extremely important way: along with Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Paul Pierce, he was amongst the NBA's only superstars to have spent such a long time with only one team. The 2010-11 season was Dirk's 13th with the Mavs. He was the one true symbol of a young franchise with little notable history before the Nowitzki era. Think of it as what the Cavs would've had, if a certain Decision hadn't been made.

    Now let's get to this year: It had been another ho-hum great 50-win season for the Mavs. They had finished with a 57-25 record, their best since 2007. Nowitzki finished the season averaging solid if unspectacular 23 points and 7 rebounds a game. This was his lowest scoring average since 2004, but an ageing Dirk improved his efficiency dramatically, posting up the highest field-goal percentage (0.517) of his career. With the Mavs finishing at 3rd place in the West, all signs pointed towards another probably second-round finish while the Lakers/Heat/Bulls/Spurs/Celtics stood above the rest of the field as the real title challengers.

    I had even predicted that, if there was going to be a first-round upset, it was going to be the Blazers over the Mavericks. The Blazers, probably the most dangerous lower-seeded team in the West, seemed to be the perfect team to surprise the playoff-unreliable Mavericks. But it wasn't to be: with the series tied at 2-2 after four games, Nowitzki took control to see that there was going to be no upset this time around and the Mavericks defeated the Blazers in 6 games.

    The second round, and once again, I bet against Dirk's squad. This time I had a valid reason though: the Mavericks were facing two-time reigning champs the Lakers, with the Lakers holding on to the home court advantage. But it was the Mavs, not the Lakers, who showed the late game mettle, toughness, and surprising poise in clutch situations. The Mavs won both games in LA, and then won both games back home in an amazing sweep of the reigning champs. Most people may talk about their Finals triumph, but in my eyes, beating the Lakers in four games was their highest moment in the season. Dirk was completely unguardable, and his dominance of Pau Gasol made the latter shrink into a shell and dent his own reputation.

    Okay, okay, on to the Conference Finals, and I thought: this has to be it, right? The Mavs aren't for real, are they? I'm gonna go ahead and pick the young and spunky Thunder to defeat them. Wrong again! Dirk Nowitzki had a historic Game 1, scoring 48 points off of just 15 shots, making all 24 of his free throws on the way for a win. Nowitzki averaged 32 ppg over the series, making the Thunder look like the inexperienced young pups that they were. It took just five games, and the Mavs were back as Western Conference champs and back into the Finals. What made the last two series more amazing for the Mavericks was that, at several times, they found themselves in a deep hole, and every time, they used a massive run, usually ignited by Nowitzki to make a comeback and win the game. It was as if the tables had turned with this team, and their rep was changing before our very eyes: long considered to be the overrated ones likely to collapse, they were now becoming the underrated ones likely to achieve the improbable.

    Hindsight is an easy thing: looking back now, I realise how amazing Nowitzki and the Mavericks were in the run to the finals, but of course, I saved giving them the credit they deserved until the very end.

    The very end to this 'RiDirkulous' summer came in the NBA Finals versus the Miami Heat, a rematch over Dwyane Wade to 2006 that Nowitzki may have personally cherished. But this was a different, much stronger, more LeBron-ed Miami team. And it was also a mentally stronger Mavericks side.

    Looking at Nowitzki's individual playoff success again, I realise now that he had been gifted in his team with just the right team-mates to fulfill the exact shortcomings that he was known to suffer from. Can't play post-defense or rebound too well? Bring in Tyson Chandler. Can't play perimeter-defense too well? Bring in Shaun Marion and DeShawn Stevenson. A problem with ball handling and leadership? That's what Jason Kidd is there for. Is his emotional toughness in doubt? No one tougher in the side than Jason Terry. And this group of players surrounding Nowitzki had one other advantage: they all knew their roles and they stuck to it.

    In this fashion, Nowitzki became a rare superstar to win a championship without at least one more all star in his side. In recent years, most of the championship winning teams had at least two (going backwards in time): the Lakers twice (Kobe and Pau), Celtics (Garnett, Allen, Pearce), Spurs (Duncan, Ginobili), Heat (Wade, Shaq), and the Spurs (Duncan, Ginobili). In 2004, it was the amazing Detroit Pistons who won the championship with just one current all star player, Ben Wallace.

    Despite their depth, the Mavs weren't supposed to be favourites in the Finals either, mainly because they were going against the hyped LeBron-Wade-Bosh trinity. 7 and half quarters into the series, with the Heat leading 1-0 at home and threatening to go 2-0, it seemed that the fairytale for the Mavs was over. But Terry, Nowitzki, and the rest of the squad sparked an incredible Game 2 comeback, capped off by Nowitzki's game-winning lay-up over Bosh, to equal the series and remind everyone that they're still pretty tough. Heat won the third game behind another great Wade performance, but nothing was going to stop Nowitzki and the balanced Mavericks from there onwards. They won the next three to win the series 4-2 and win their first ever NBA title.

    Hindsight, I repeat, is an easy thing. All of a sudden, we started looking back at Nowitzki as he really was the next coming of Larry Bird, possessing the most deadly mid-range jump shot in the league and the heart of a true champion. We started looking at the Mavericks as a team that never-says-die. It was incredible to say it, but then again, seeing their history, it wasn't: Dallas Mavericks, NBA Champions. Dirk Nowitzki, Finals MVP.

    Despite his below-average regular season, Nowitzki truly elevated his game in the playoffs, averaging 27.7 ppg and 8.1 rpg over the course of the 21 games. He may not have the same pure talent he had back in 2006-07, but in the midst of his run he played the most inspired, efficient, and tough basketball of his career: hitting big shots, grabbing big rebounds, showing up as a true leader, and never backing down to anyone.

    It's a pity that most casual fans will look back at the Finals as LeBron's Collapse Part II. True, LeBron James and the Heat fell, but more importantly, Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs rose.

    Yes, reputations are a difficult thing to earn, and a difficult thing to change. With one incredible summer, Nowitzki's reputation has definitely changed in my eyes. I look at him now as a winner and a leader that he has been for several years but couldn't prove it. Funny, how a championship changes perspective like that.

    What's funnier is that, the man Nowitzki defeated in the Finals, LeBron James, finds himself in the same boat Nowitzki did for all these years. Despite incredible individual and team success, Nowitzki couldn't shake the championship monkey off his back, and when he finally did, the glory was unmatchable. Will LeBron's brilliant-but-maligned career follow the same route?

    October 18, 2011

    Royal Club Golden Jubilee 50th Basketball Tournament being held in New Delhi

    One of the oldest and most prestigious basketball tournament in New Delhi, The Royal Club Basketball Tournament, returns for its 50th annual competition this year: the Golden Jubilee Royal Club tournament is being held at the Montfort School in Ashok Vihar from October 16-23.

    The tournament is featuring a total of 33 teams in three sections: Men, College Women, and School Boys. Games will be held daily from 2:00 PM onwards.

    In last year’s tournament, IAHQ Signals took home the Men’s Championship, while Montfort won the gold in the School Boys’ and Girls’ section: College Women did not participate in last year’s championship.

    Here is the list of teams participating in this year’s tournament:


  • Pool A: IAHQ Signals, Pragati Club, Montfort Alumni
  • Pool B: Air Force, Prithavi Nath Club (PNC), Butlerian Club
  • Pool C: Royal Club, Karol Bag Public Club, RSA Sports Club
  • Pool D: Indian Navy, Captains Club, True Friends Club
  • Pool E: CISF, LPC, Sports Star Club
  • Pool F: CRPF, Garware Club, Oxfordian

    College Women

  • Pool A: St. Stephen’s College, Indraprastha College, Indira Gandhi Institute of Sports Sciences & Physical Education
  • Pool B: Jesus & Mary College (JMC), Kirorimal College, Miranda House
  • Pool C: Lady Sri Ram College (LSR), Maitry College, Kamla Nehru College

    School Boys

  • Pool A: Montfort School, Sachdeva Public School, ITL Public School
  • Pool B: GD Goenka School, Delhi Public School (DPS) (Mathura Road), Air Force Bal Bharti School (AFBBS)

    In the first few games in the 2011 Golden Jubilee Championship, Women’s favourites Jesus & Mary College (JMC) had little trouble disposing of Kirorimal College in their first game, 37-18.

    In the Men’s section, PNC defeated Butlerian 76-65 in a high octane, exciting game. Narender (19) and Khushwinder (16) led the way for PNC, while Mukesh Bishnoi (29) and Geo (25) were the high scorers for Butlerian. In another game, after trailing by 12 points at halftime, Royal Club turned the game around to defeat RSA 51-47.

    The opening ceremony of the tournament was held on Sunday, October 16th. The finals for all three sections are schedule to be held on Sunday, October 23rd, 2011, from 4:00 PM onwards at Montfort School.
  • October 17, 2011

    Great Moments in Bollywood & Basketball

    "Yeh International game hai - Deemag is khela jata hai, gussey sey nahi"

    (This is an international game, played by the mind, not with anger).

    The wise words above were first spoken by Indian movie superstar Hrithik Roshan as he faced Aishwarya Rai in a 1-on-1 basketball game / flirting session in the film Dhoom 2. Now, I'm sure that the Zen Master aka Phil Jackson would've been very proud of Roshan's 'Zen' advice, but this isn't the only classic moment of Basketball in Bollywood. The Indian film industry, the largest in the world, may not have produced hoop-related classics such as He Got Game, Hoosiers, Rebound, White Men Can't Jump, Space Jam, The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, Above The Rim, Basketball Diaries, and etc, etc, etc...

    But, inspired by this article by Sportskeeda's Dibyasundar Nayak on the Top 5 Bollywood Movies on Sports (the list included cricket, hockey, football, and cycling), I decided that it was time to reveal to you some great basketball scenes from Hindi movies. Yes, there have been rumours circulating off and on for nearly a year about '4 PM on the Court', India's first basketball movie, but until this film is released, we have to make do with the limited amount of Bollywood Hoops action we have.

    So, without further ado, I would like to present to you the Top 3 Great Moments of Bollywood & Basketball. I have embedded the videos, and below them, added my detailed comments. All three of the movies mentioned below were superhits, which can only lead me to conclude that Basketball + Bollywood = gold.

    3. Koi Mil Gaya (2003)

    Dhoom 2 wasn't Roshan's first stint with basketball: that moment belonged to the movie Koi Mil Gaya. Although I haven't had the heart or the motivation to sit through the entire film, I can guess that the story-line was a cross of ET, Forrest Gump, and in the basketball sequence, Space Jam. Basically: Rohit (Hrithik Roshan), a full-grown man of limited intellect, finds an alien called 'Jadoo' who helps him get achieve supernatural things. In this classic 9-minute scene, Roshan's team - the 'Paandavs' - which include him and four children, play a game of basketball for the 'Hero Cup' against the mean-looking 'Kasauli Tigers'. My running notes are below the video:

    - There is something about the skin-tight vests on everybody.
    - Paandavs have sneaked in the alien 'Jadoo' on to their sideline.
    - Good touch in naming the team Paandavs, by the way. The Mahabharat's 5 brothers, five guys on the court.
    - Jadoo has given Roshan some ill dribbling skills... Leads me to believe that Allen Iverson may have also had close encounters of the third kind.
    - Oh man! Hrithik goes FAAAR above the basket for that 2-handed dunk. His WAIST is aligned with the basket there.
    - I know Hrithik's the best player but dammmn he's being selfish out there. This is like Kobe in 2006. Who's Kwame?
    - At 1:49 - NBA goaltend, probably legal by FIBA and thus India rules though.
    - Good call by the Tigers to FINALLY quintiple team Rohit aka Hrithik.
    - HAHAHAHAH 2:20 the Tigers player Freddie Weis'd the little Sardar kid... HAHAHAHAHAH
    - Bruce Bowen would be a good fit with the Tigers, specially after 2:50.
    - After 3 minute mark.... the kids are jumping but can't release the ball. No travelling call REF!!! What is this? A bunch of LeBrons playing here?
    - That's a whole lotta dunks in this game. Now I wanna see Blake Griffin suit up for the Tigers.
    - Halftime at 4:09 after a 49-0 tigers run (DAMN!).
    - 4:38: AAAh so that explains the shooting slump for the Pandavs. Jadoo cant help them cheat if the sun isn't out.
    - And so Roshan prayes to God for sunlight... Obviously no matter how great the Jadoo-led Pandavs become, they will never do well in the NBA indoor stadiums.
    - 5:30 onwards... All I can say is DAMMMN!!!!!!
    - And now, the Pandavs, who are taking Jordan's 'Air-time' concept to another level, are introducing you to the new unstoppable No-gravity offense.
    - 6:56-7:05: Roshan with perhaps the greatest move EVER? He gets the ball at his own free throw line, flies and bounces to dribble once at the halfcourt (this bounce may have been repeated here to show its full awesomeness) and then dunks it in.
    - Paadavs have responded with their own 42-0 run to make it 48-49
    - Ref didn't call a single shooting foul all game by the way. Good clean fun, this.
    - I'm sorry, I take back what i said a minute ago. 7:58 - 8:09 is the greatest move ever. Hrithik intercepts a shot, jumps, does three body flips in mid air to land his feet on top of the oppositions rim, and then drop the game winner. Incredible.
    - Not fair, Paandavs cheated and had the alien with them. We need the Tigers to get some assistance. I suggest have Donague bet on them and then officiate the game.
    - Cheater Paandavs won the Hero Cup.

    2. Dhoom 2 (2006)

    And now we arrive to this famous scene in Dhoom 2 that I mentioned earlier: Aishwarya Rai Bachan vs. Hrithik Roshan 1-on-1, a scene vying to be the greatest movie 1-on-1 battle since Ray Allen (Jesus Shuttlesworth) vs. Denzel Washington in He Got Game... Again, this is a movie that I haven't seen in its entirety, but the plot is something about international criminals, most of whom are sexy. In this scene, Rai and Roshan play against each other in the dark, in the rain (for the love of the game, I presume).

    - I would also like to mention here that Aishwarya Rai (aka Sunhari) will refer to herself in third-person during the entire duration of this clip.
    - Take note boys: If you dribble the basketball in slow motion in the rain, Aishwarya Rai will stare at you.
    - Both in Koi Mil Gaya and in this one, Roshan has stayed surprisingly consistent to his basketball-playing gear, which has included a tight vest and trousers. This time though he has a bandana on, which means that he is badass.
    - Also to further emphasize that basketball is hip, the director would like you to hear people rapping.
    - 0:47: "Hey... Are you like, Checking me out?"
    - 1:20: Time to play. Aish strips down to her mini-skirt. Recently, FIBA controversially discussed the idea of more revealing uniforms to sex up the women's game: Aishwarya Rai here is Exhibit A.
    - Ok so it's ON!
    - Roshan and Aish have their own modified version of flirtatious trash talk that Gary Payton may or may not approve of.
    - 2:48: That's a carry Roshan, seriously. I'm serious about him getting as many travel calls as LeBron.
    - By the way, Hrithik Roshan doesn't shoot the ball at the basket, he throws it, kind of like I did when I was 8.
    - 3:06-3:12: Aish displaying her back to the basket skills.
    - 3:20-3:23: Woah, what? Travelling, Aish.
    - Roshan can ball but obviously need 'Jadoo' to dunk.
    - 4:10-4:20: Some sick handling skills by Roshan, sort of.
    - Roshan: "Yeh International game hai - Deemag is khela jata hai, gussey sey nahi". Someone teach him the Triangle Offense already, he already has the attitude!
    - If you haven't gotten it yet, they aren't talking about basketball, they're talking about crime. Which is also an international game, played by the mind, not with anger, apparently.
    - 5:46: Money shot!

    1. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)

    Aah.. We're now at the main event. This one movie single-handedly turned a whole legion of young Indians to take basketball a little more seriously. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is one of India's greatest romantic classics, and this particular scene features a basketball game between two former friends who find and love each other later in their lives. This is the only movie of the three featured here that I have seen fully. So it's Shah Rukh Khan, one of India's biggest stars ever as Rahul vs. Kajol (Anjali). When they were in college, they were best friends, and she used to kick his ass. Now, they have a frosty relationship, but maybe hoops are going to bring them closer together. Let the love and basketball resume.

    - I'm getting a flashback. The two kids are actually pretending to fight to make the two main characters play ball again and thus, eventually become close again.
    - The debate within the kids and the adults here is: Can girls play ball? I think we're about to find out.
    - 1:13-16 Kajol challenges him - it's ON!
    - 1:50: And they're FINALLY on the court. I guess it's going to be a full-court 1-on-1. Although this looks like a small court.
    - Yes, before you ask, Shah Rukh is going to keep his tie on.
    - And yes, Kajol is playing in a Sari and barefoot. Man, I wonder what David Stern and the NBA's strict dress code regulations have to say about this.
    - 2:10-2:15: Flirtatious trash talk during basketball is obviously something us Indians are great at.
    - There is obviously no one to referee in this game, and Shah Rukh is being allowed to commit multiple violations in each possession.
    - 3:20: Kajol steals the ball, but then has to fix her sari before the jump-shop. #IndiaBasketball
    - Are they both shooting at the same basket. Wtf?
    - 3:33-3:36 Oh no he didn't. If Ginobili was Kajol in a Sari, he would've flopped at that gentle touch of the waist and won the foul right there.
    - 3:58: Shah Rukh Khan has clearly learnt dribbling from the finest.
    - 4:03: DAMN she tripped him! REFF!!!! That's a potentially career-ending type of foul. Andrew Bynum would be proud.
    - 4:40 onwards: Hahahah... So this part is, basically, "Let's all mock the Loser Girl while she stands sadly in the middle of the court."
    - Of course, it all ends up all well and good, and hoops makes them friends again.

    So that's it folks. Basketball helped underdog kids and Hrithik outdo the 'bullies' with magic, helped two young criminals spark a special friendship, and brought back two friends closer together again.

    Moral of the story: Basketball in Bollywood, Bringing People Together. And ensuring blockbuster movies.

    October 15, 2011

    Southern Railway & IOB (Chennai) win the 3rd Jeppiaar Trophy in Chennai

    Shining with the help of some home town advantage, the squad’s from Southern Railway and IOB (Chennai) won the Women’s and Men’s trophy respectively at the 3rd Jeppiaar All India Invitational Basketball Tournament in Chennai. Southern Railway defeated South East Central Railway (SECR) in the Women’s final on Thursday to win the championship, while IOB lifted the title after beating ONGC in a closely contested Men’s final on Friday evening at JJ Indoor Stadium.

    Only in the third year since its inception, the Jeppiaar Tournament in Chennai has gained a reputation as one of the most exciting and competitive basketball championships in India, featuring some of the best club sides from across the country. The tournament, which was held from October 9-14th this year, also plays as a fitting precursor to the Senior National Basketball Championship which will be taking place in Chennai in two months.

    The tournament was organised by the Jeppiaar Institute of Technology, Sriperumpudur.

    The Woman’s championship featured four teams: Southern Railway, SECR, Billai Steel Plant, and Central Railway. Southern Railway had an exceptional tournament, as they won all three of their round robin games before entering the final versus SECR. After a closely-contested first quarter, the result of this final also soon became a foregone conclusion as SECR had no answers for Southern Railway’s three-pronged attack of Anitha Paul Durai, Geethu Anna Jose, and Kokila S.

    Anitha was the best player in the final, leading the way with 31 points as Southern Railway won easily, 89-40. Kokila S. was rewarded for her consistent play and named as the player of the tournament in the woman’s section.

    The Men’s competition featured a much wider spread of eight teams: Chennai Customs, RCF Kapurthala, Punjab Police, Indian Air Force, ONGC, Sathyabama University, Indian Army, IOB (Chennai), Integral Coach Factory (ICF) (Chennai), and hosts, Jeppiaar Institute of Technology. After the group stage, four teams: IOB, Indian Army, ONGC, and the surprise package Sathyabama University qualified for the Semi-finals. IOB and ONGC defeated Indian Army and Sathyabama in their semi-final clashes respectively on Thursday.

    The Men’s final saw two experienced sides, IOB and ONGC, face off against each other in a classic encounter. The game was close throughout, with IOB leading by two at the end of the first quarter and ONGC leading by three at the end of the second. IOB began to improve their game in the third period and slowly stretch the lead in this tough, defensive match-up. By the end of the game, ONGC found it hard to close the gap as IOB won 55-48 to lift the Jeppiaar trophy for the first time.

    Sathyabama won the third-place game, defeating Indian Army 74-67 behind efforts by Rikin S Pethani (22 points), Vignesh (18), and Raghu Ram (17). Pethani was named the Men’s Player of the Tournament.

    The Men's winning team was awarded with Rs. 1.1 lakh, runners-up with Rs. 80,000, and 2nd runners-up with Rs. 50,000. In the Women's section, the winning team was awarded with Rs. 80,000, runners-up with Rs. 50,000, and 2nd runners-up with Rs. 30,000.

    October 13, 2011

    India’s U16 Boys’ Basketball team for 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship in Vietnam

    The Basketball Federation of India (BFI) has announced the 12-member squad of youth players who will represent the country at the 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship in Nha Trang City, Vietnam, from October 18-28th, 2011.

    India, who qualified for this championship after defeating Nepal and Sri Lanka in qualifiers in New Delhi in August, have been slotted in Group A of the FIBA Asia U16 Championship along with reigning champions China, Malaysia, and Chinese Taipei.

    India’s squad will be highlighted by young star players such as Punjab’s Loveneet Singh and Chhattisgarh’s Ajay Pratap Singh. Additionally, Punjab’s 15-year-old 7-foot-2-inch player Satnam Singh Bhamara, who was part of India’s Senior Men’s team at the FIBA Asia Championship in China last month, will also be part of the U16 side. India’s coaching contingent will be led by head coach Jai Prakash Singh.

    India’s U16 Boys Basketball Team for 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship

  • Abhishek Rai
  • Khusmeet Singh Atwal
  • Karthickeyan Saminathan
  • Rakesh Singh Sangwan
  • Loveneet Singh
  • Sanjeev Kumar
  • Narender Satyawan
  • Syed Anam Ali
  • Akimjeet Singh Sohal
  • Pankaj Rathee
  • Ajay Pratap Singh
  • Satnam Singh Bhamara

  • Head Coach: Jai Prakash Singh
  • Coach: JN Nehra
  • Coach: Divya Singh
  • Physiotherapist: Nilesh Shah

  • FIBA Referee: Manoj Kotian
  • FIBA Referee: Zanim Mohd. Hashim
  • FIBA Commissioner: Naresh Aneja

    India will tip off their campaign against holders China on Tuesday, October 18th. India will face Malaysia and Chinese Taipei on the 19th and 20th of October, respectively. The Second Round of the tournament will begin on Saturday, October 22nd. The Final is scheduled to be held on Friday, October 28th. The Indian Boys’ team is currently ranked 45th in the FIBA World Rankings.

    Click here for Complete Preliminary Round Schedule.
  • October 12, 2011

    India wins double gold at South Asian Beach Games 3x3 Basketball in Sri Lanka

    It was double success for India’s 3-on-3 (3x3) basketball teams at the 1st South Asian Beach Games (SABG) in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, on Tuesday, as both the Indian Men and Women won the gold medal after defeating Sri Lanka and Maldives in their respective finals. Both of India’s basketball squads finished the three-day competition undefeated, with 4-0 records.

    Although real Beach Basketball is played on sand, the competition at the SABG showcased an outdoor version of the 3x3 basketball format, a modified version of the game which is played in the half-court. Each team is allowed just three players on the court and the 10-minute game can only go up to a maximum of 21 points.

    In the Men’s final, Sri Lanka took a confident start, but India quickly fought back and held on to a three point lead at halftime. Behind eight points by Jagdeep Singh, India extended their lead to clinch the win, 21-16.

    Earlier, on Sunday and Monday, India’s Men’s side had won all three of their group games, defeating Maldives, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka.

    India also dominated the women’s final, defeating Maldives by 17-7 on Tuesday evening. India’s Women’s side had also won all their earlier games on the previous two days, defeating Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

    Final Standings


    1. India
    2. Sri Lanka
    3. Maldives


    1. India
    2. Maldives
    3. Sri Lanka

    October 11, 2011

    A Hooponic Plague

    It was a classic case of self-denial: we've all done it, and we've all suffered by it. It is a common human reaction to clear upcoming tragedy and depression to pretend that it's not really happening, to distract ourselves with other matters, to imagine that it couldn't really last that long.

    By a matter of sheer coincidence, I happen to be re-reading 'The Plague', the English translation of the French novel by my favourite author, Albert Camus. In this haunting, existential novel, the residents of a small French town are forced to come to terms with the reality that something of a bubonic plague is killing off hundreds of their fellow men and women daily, and forcing the town into a complete shutdown, or a 'lock' down, if you like.

    But what is more interesting than the tragedy is the delayed reaction to the tragedy: until it hits him where it personally hurts, most of the townspeople in the story refuse to buck down and change their normal mentality and way of life: they go on passing through their lives in complete denial of the fact that one by one they will be losing their lives or the lives of their loved ones, and that the rest of their loved ones outside the town have been locked out, away from them, perhaps never to see them again.

    Let's leave fiction behind and awaken back to our much-kinder reality: With the new CBA deadline approaching, there were whispers of an NBA Lockout over a year ago, which I had scoffed at and suppressed, focused more with the exciting storylines of the new NBA season: the three-headed monster that became the Miami Heat, the dramatic rise of Derrick Rose, and the Knicks' return to relevance. The whispers got louder as the season progressed, but louder still were Blake Griffin's dunks, Carmelo Anthony's trade to New York, and every bit of useless information that was fed to us about the over-scrutinised Heat. As the season reached its conclusion, I was left in awe after an incredible, unpredictable two months of the playoffs, where the Thunder and the Grizzlies surprised, the Lakers, Celtics, and Spurs fell too early, LeBron James choked, and Dirk and the Mavs rose against all odds to the promised land. It was an amazing end to an amazing season. Bad News Lockout Bears be damned.

    Until the lockout actually happened. With the CBA deadline passing on July 1, 2011, we were officially in a lockout. The whispers were really loud now, too hard to ignore because there was little else going on in the NBA calender in the off-season. I heard everyone from David Stern and Adam Silver to Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher tell me that this was going to be a long haul, a gap too far apart to bridge easily. It was going to take hours of meetings and money talk and men in suits and other stuff that sports fan don't want to understand.

    But it still didn't feel real. I mean, all that we missed in July were player photographs/mentions on the NBA's official sites. The offseason wasn't supposed to have any games anyways, so how was a lockout going to change anything, right?

    Still in denial.

    There was a little more missing this off-season. Rumours. Ideas. Possibilities. What ifs. What if such-and-such team sign this-and-that free agent? What if Team A trade injury-ridden-star to Team B for selfish-star? Who will be the team to watch this season? Who will be the most improved player? Which rookie will make the biggest difference? Etc. Etc. Etc. These were all the type of questions I wondered and discussed every off-season, but this time, the conversations seemed awfully hollow. Every sentence was prefixed with 'If the lockout ends...': If the lockout ends, Kevin Durant will become the best player in the league. If the lockout ends, the Heat will have the best chance to win a championship. If the lockout ends, Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, and Jimmer Fredette will back the Kings the league's new up-and-coming team to watch.

    But the Lockout was showing no signs of end, or even any signs of subsiding. The blows from both sides: the NBA and the NBA Players Association (NBPA) came harder and harder, and the effects were felt more and more with each passing day, with each day that the sides came closer to not sorting this shit out. Fans were anticipating men in suits at meetings like they anticipated their favourite players showing up on the court, except that the new anticipation was annoying, boring, and downright depressing.

    I still didn't let it get to me though: I followed everything that happened, all the agreements that weren't made, and I still chose to remain emotionally unaffected. It still wasn't hitting close enough to home yet.

    And just like that, we were in October. And instead of training camps and Media Days around the league, I heard crickets.

    The pre-season which was supposed to start on October 9th, got cancelled: first by two weeks, and then completely. For something I had been expecting for months, I was still shocked. But hell, it's only the pre-season right? The games don't count, anyways.

    But on October 10th, a day into the non-happening pre-season, I, and every other NBA fan on the planet, felt the first real torturous blows of this entire messy affair. After another long NBA/NBPA meeting yesterday, the NBA cancelled the first two weeks of the regular season, which was slated to begin on November 1st. That's a 100 games across the league cancelled, vanished, poof into thin air.

    Until recently, the percentages being fought over, the zeroes at the end of the contracts, the number of millions being lost and gained here and there, were just that: numbers. Just like the casualty numbers collected and announced by the doctor in 'The Plague', unfeeling and unrelatable. But with actual games being missed, it's all too real: it's not about which side gets what percentage, it's about no Bulls vs Mavericks on November 1st, no showdown of Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant on the first day of the season, no sign of seeing the full-strength Heat take on the resurgent Knicks the next day, no one for Blake Griffin to dunk on, no one for Kevin Garnett to intimidate, and no sign of a Laker running up and down the court with the words 'World Peace' on his back.

    Two weeks isn't much you say. Well, it is enough to end my delayed reaction, my denial to his Hooponic Plague. What makes it worse is that the two sides are no closer to an agreement. In his story for Yahoo! Sports today, Adrian Wojnarowski quoted players and GMs saying things such as “We remain very, very apart on all issues,” “We have a gulf that separates us," and “I think the best-case scenario now is 50 games, but I can see the whole season gone."

    It's happened. We are not just missing rumours, or photographs on a website, or practice, or exhibition matches: we are missing NBA games. And by the looks of it, we will be missing many more. It's like 1998 all over again, and I really hope it's not worse than that last lockout.

    Perhaps its time for me to take the stance that the NBPA's president Derek Fisher took after yesterday's meetings, and be realistic about what has been coming this way for over a year. “We anticipated being in this situation,” Fisher said, “and here we are.”

    Games are lost, and we could continue losing them. No amount of charity defense-less dunk-fests, street-ball 50-point outbursts, exhibition all-star games, WNBA, foreign hoops, college hoops or anything else can replace the sadness of losing NBA games.

    We need this resolved fast, so start praying to your Gods now: I'm turning to Camus and Michael Jordan.