February 23, 2015

IOB (Men) and KSEB (Women) win 2015 JCI Basketball Tournament at Athirampuzha

In Athirampuzha (Kerala), the St Aloysius Flood-Lit Basketball Court hosted the 6th JCI All India Invitational Basketball Tournament, where the local state's Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) defeated Chennai's Southern Railway in the final to bring a title for the home fans. In the Men's final, Chennai's Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) won the final against Cochin's Customs and Central Excise.

In the Women's final, Thiruvanathapuram's KSEB fought in a neck-to-neck battle against Southern Railway, before surviving for a 55-50 win.

IOB's Aravind led with 17 points for IOB to completely dominate Customs and Central Excise in the Men's final, winning 62-30 in the end.

Kerala Women's Team was felicitated at the tournament for their maiden basketball title at the National Games earlier this month.

February 22, 2015

Clearing the Deadline cobwebs: The best players traded on the NBA’s record trade-deadline day

In the biggest trade deadline day in NBA history, 37 players moved in 11 trades across the league. 16 of the NBA’s 30 teams will enter the last half of the season with a roster change, including some dramatic moves that could boost various title aspirants. With the number of multiple team trades, draft picks offered, protection on future draft picks, and the reshaping of rosters, it was difficult for even the staunchest NBA follower to clear the cobwebs and find where their favourite players landed or how their favourite teams have reloaded. Here is my countdown of the top ten players who have moved to new teams.

Click here to read my full feature on SportsKeeda

February 18, 2015

Quarter Mania: Klay Thompson and the top scoring quarters in NBA history

The magical 'Klay Kquarter', where Klay Thompson scored an 37 points in the third quarter, gave the Warriors' guard the NBA record for most points in a single quarter by an individual player. Thompson had to outduel several historic moments by other stars over the ages who have also experienced magic in under 12 minutes. Here is a look at the top five scoring quarters in NBA history.

Read the full article on SportsKeeda here.

February 14, 2015

2015 National Games Basketball: Uttarakhand (Men) and Kerala (Women) win gold medals in Kerala

It took four years for the National Games to return back on the Indian domestic basketball calendar. And India's best ball players - hungry to add the prestigious medal to their trophy collections - made it almost worth the wait.

Photo Courtesy: Ekalavyas.com
The basketball tournament of the 35th National Games - held from January 31 - February 14, 2015 across Kerala - came to a conclusion on the evening of Friday, February 13 with two satisfying finales for the energetic crowd at the Indoor Stadium in Mundayad (Kannur). Hosts Kerala were cheered on by their home fans as they raced past neighbouring Tamil Nadu for a victory in the Women's final. The Men's gold was fought closely in one of the greatest finals in Indian basketball, with Uttarakhand finally moving past Tamil Nadu in double overtime to finish as champions.

After a four-year absence, (the last National Games were held in Jharkhand in 2011) the 2015 National Games - which are basically inter-state Olympics - returned this year, organized by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). A total of 16 teams (eight Men, eight Women) took part in the basketball tournament at the Games this year from February 9-13.

On Friday, Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu Men were the final show at the basketball court, and they gave the fans a night to remember. The two powerhouses - who are the previous two winners of India's Senior National Championship - played in a classic back-and-forth contest, as neither side refused to cave in. Tied at 40-40 at halftime, TN took a 10 point lead at the end of the third quarter, only to see the lead disappear thanks to a strong comeback by Uttarakhand in the fourth. Tied at 81-each, the game went into overtime, and after five more minutes, when there was no one with a clear advantage, double overtime began at 92-92. Finally, the clutch efforts of veteran star Riyazuddin (17) lifted Uttarkhand to a hard-fought 105-97 win. The star of the night was Amrit Pal Singh, who ended with 38 points and 18 rebounds for Uttarakhand. Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (20) and Yadwinder Singh (18 points, 17 rebounds) also put in big performances for their side. At the other end, Prasanna Venkatesh (28), Aravind (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Pratham Singh (18) were the leaders for TN.

Photo Courtesy: Ekalavyas.com
TN faced disappointment in the Women's final, too, as the home side Kerala relied on stifling defense to shut out their opponents and win 56-36. Kerala started strong, limiting TN to just 12 points in the first half and taking an early 16 point lead. Despite improved performances by their opponents after halftime, Kerala cruised to a 20 point victory. Jeena PS (19 points, 13 rebounds) was Kerala's star on the night.

The Bronze Medal games were also held earlier on Friday. Karnataka's Navaneeta played one of the best games of her career with 24 points and 21 rebounds to help her side score a hard-fought 74-70 win against Maharashtra. Karnataka had to fight back from being down five at halftime to secure a win. Savitha added 23. For Maharashtra, the leading scorers were Manisha Dange (21) and Renu Maurya (18). The Men's game was a wash in the favour of Services against Karnataka. The efforts of Narender Grewal (25) and Joginder Singh (16) were too much for Karnataka to handle, who trailed big early in the game and got no respite as Service cruised to a 90-53 win. Anil Kumar had 20 for Karnataka in a losing effort.

Final Scores
  • Women: Kerala (Jeena PS 19, Poojamol KS 13) bt. Tamil Nadu 56-36 (16-8, 12-4, 11-16, 17-8).
  • Men: Uttarakhand (Amritpal Singh 38 pts, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi 20, Yadwinder Singh 18, Riyazuddin 17) bt. Tamil Nadu (Prasanna Venkatesh 28, Aravind 20 pts, Pratham Singh 18) 105-97 2OT (17-23, 23-17, 25-15, 16-26, 11-11, 13-5).
Bronze Medal Games
  • Women: Karnataka (Navaneeta 24 pts, Savitha 23) bt. Maharashtra (Manisha Dange 21, Renu Maurya 18, Geo Blessen 13) 74-70 (14-18, 20-21, 22-16, 18-15).
  • Men: Services (Narender Grewal 25, Joginder Singh 16) bt. Karnataka (Anil Kumar 20) 90-53 (19-15, 28-11, 26-17, 17-10).

February 13, 2015

Sony SIX has launched India's first NBA wrap-up show

It's one to show NBA games in India. It's another to make NBA games Indian.

TV channels in India, particularly Sony SIX over the last few years, have been doing the former for years now. It is not uncommon now for basketball fans to wake up for 'NBA Mornings on SIX' every day to catch an NBA doubleheader live in India. But Sony SIX are going one step further this year: launched over this past Sunday, the TV channel will show a weekly NBA wrap-up show exclusively produced for Indian audiences.

The show, entitled NBA Weekly, debuted at 11:30 AM on Sunday, February 8th, one week ahead of the NBA All Star Weekend. It will be broadcast on Sony SIX every Sunday at 11:30 AM until the season ends. TV anchor/artist Manish Anand is the host of the show.

Via IndianTelevision.com

NBA Weekly will provide viewers with a complete panorama on the sport, offering fans a unique perspective on the game by highlighting the best headlines of the week gone by as well as an insight into the upcoming action for the week ahead.
The show will present its own local spin off with in-depth reporting of the latest news on the NBA's biggest stars and most exciting teams, to enthrall Indian sports fans. The weekly show will provide fans an all access look into the best of on-court action, game highlights, top plays, moments of the week, player and team profiling amongst many other exciting stories.
Sony Six EVP and business head Prasana Krishnan said, "The show's format has been specially produced to connect with Indian audiences by offering comprehensive analyses on all the scheduled games during the NBA season. Through the years, we have seen a phenomenal rise in the viewership for NBA and that has propelled us towards making major investments in the continued development of the game both on-ground and on-air in the country."

The Head Coach of India's Senior Men's basketball team Scott Flemming will be a special guest on the show to provide wrap up coverage from the NBA All Star Weekend. Catch Coach Flemming as he discusses the NBA Saturday Night events on Sunday morning in India and on another special coverage after the All Star Game on Monday morning in India.

Great job Sony SIX! The channel had already launched India's own version of the NBA Inside Stuff last year, and this is the necessary next step for the continuing NBA growth in India. There are enough fans now who don't just want to watch the games - we want to here expert views about them, catch highlights, and keep our eye on the overall entertainment around the league. We don't just want NBA games in India, we want to make the NBA experience more Indian, too!

February 12, 2015

Former India international basketball player Akshay Bhosale dies at 24

Less than a month ago, Akshay Bhosale (24) was one of the top players for Pune's Bharati Vidyapeeth University at the UBA All India Inter University Basketball Tournament in Chennai. In his last major game of basketball, he led his team valiantly with 36 points in a loss to Jain University to see his team finish at 4th place at the national inter-university tournament. But on Wednesday morning, while on a routine warm-up jog, the former young star for Pune, Maharashtra, and a brief international player for India, collapsed and was declared dead by cardiac arrest on arrival at a nearby hospital.

Via the Pune Mirror

Pune lost one of its most promising basketball players after 24-year-old Akshay Bhosale suffered a cardiac arrest on Wednesday morning. The youth reached the BMCC ground half an hour before the usual practice time of 7.45 am and started a warm-up jog but collapsed midway. The six foot two inch-tall forward was practising to make it to the Maharashtra squad which is scheduled to host and play in the Federation Cup in Balewadi next month. The ambulance arrived around 30 minutes after the collapse and Bhosale was rushed to the Joshi Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.

"I am not sure if he had some preexisting medical condition. He did face some breathing issues between a match a couple of years ago but we all thought it was due to physical exertion. I am not sure if he went through any check-ups for that," informed a team mate.

According to The Times of India, Bhosale had started his basketball career when he was in class V in Modern High School in Pune. He had represented India at the U-19 SGFI held in Vietnam in 2007. He had played ten nationals in various age groups. He would've been part of Maharashtra team at the upcoming Federation Cup National Basketball Championship.

This is terrible, shocking news. Pune, Maharashtra, and India have all lost a promising talent just about to hit his prime years. I wish the best to Bhosale's family, friends, and teammates in this tough time.

February 10, 2015

Lost opportunities have limited the potential of many Indian star basketball players

This article was first published in my column for Ekalavyas on January 31, 2015. Click here to read the original post.

Amrit Pal Singh rises over his opposition during the recently concluded
 Senior National Basketball Championship. Singh was named the Most
Valuable Player in India’s marquee annual event - Photo courtesy:
From the very first time I saw Amrit Pal Singh play basketball, I knew that it was already too late.

Back in 2011, Amrit Pal had been one of the new additions to India’s senior national team, led by former Head Coach Kenny Natt to play in the Middle Asia Zone qualifiers in New Delhi. As hosts, India had to get past South Asian opponents like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan to qualify for the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship. Amrit Pal – an unknown quantity in Indian basketball until then – played just 12 minutes a game off the bench in India’s three contests but ended up becoming the qualifiers’ biggest breakthrough story. He averaged 13.3 ppg to finish as India’s second-leading scorer and was a beast in the block on both ends of the floor. India won all its games by an average margin of nearly 68 points per game and qualified for the bigger continental tournament.

Usually, the progression of a breakthrough young player to stardom can be tracked back much earlier at the national level in India. Youngsters who perform well at the under-14 level usually graduate to under-16 teams, the best under-16s get to represent the nation’s colours in youth FIBA championships, the improving talents among them move on to dominance at the under-18 or Junior FIBA Asia games, and finally, the best of the best get the opportunity to don a Team India jersey at the senior level. Occasionally, some bright young talents fizzle away and some forgotten bench players become late bloomers.

But no one ever jumped into centre stage as quickly and surprisingly as Amrit Pal. At 19, he was in the village of Fattuwal in Punjab, helping his farmer father plough a rice field. At 20, he was playing for India at the FIBA Asia Championship. By 23, he was India’s best post player and team captain, helping the side pick up its greatest ever basketball triumph with a memorable victory over China last summer.

Amrit Pal’s rise is the ultimate story of a late bloomer who defeated the odds to make the most of his natural talent in limited time. In four years, he had graduated from never seeing a basketball to being the captain of the country’s senior national squad. But interlaced with this heart-warming story is also a sobering reminder of an opportunity lost, a potential left unfulfilled. By the time Amrit Pal was discovered at 19, it was already too late. He has made the most of what he could, but, if the circumstances had been right, he could’ve been so much more.

And Amrit Pal isn’t alone. Over the last decade alone, there have been several Indian players – like S. Robinson, TJ Sahi, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Amjyot Singh, and Palpreet Singh Brar – who’ve had the potential to become more dominant stars on the Asian and global scale, but due to late discovery or mismanagement, their potentials were never realized.

Most expert scouts will tell you that many of the players named above – if given access to better coaching and opportunity at an earlier age – could’ve developed into professional players worthy of international recognition. If a player of Amrit Pal’s natural gifts had been honed and trained a decade earlier, he could’ve been on his way to becoming the first Indian national to play at the NCAA Division 1 level and have a real shot at the NBA.

In North America, Europe, and more competitive Asian countries like China, young players with promise are given regular exposure and top coaching opportunities from the age of nine or 10. Basketball for those who improve and specialize in the sport because a clear goal to achieve instead of just a pastime. Most of the top players in the world start playing the game earlier in their lives and thus have much more time to improve their physical and mental approaches to by the time they reach the professional or senior level.

Of course, we still have years (if not decades) before we can match the efficiency and professionalism of scouting and training in the best basketball nations, but India has its own advantage: the world’s largest youth population. Most states in India have functional basketball federations or associations who have access to players from many of their chief districts. Some chhupa rustams (hidden talents) will always go unnoticed, but we have the numbers and the capability to help the development of the majority that we do find.

Currently, with Indian educational culture focusing on academics over other talents in a child, schools rarely have a programme to allow serious exploration of a non-academic speciality – like basketball – at an early age. By the teenage years, regular tournaments for the luckier ones may see them make an impression at the district level, and the best ones may be considered to represent their state. But by then, a lot of fundamental hoops education has already been skipped over by the child’s first coaches and it becomes too late to properly learn those early fundamentals. This is one of the issues that India’s national coaches are hoping to address with ‘Train the Trainer’ programmes, where coaching philosophies and techniques are taught from one coach to another until they reach children at all the grassroots.

But age isn’t the only hindrance. In many situations, the coaches or team management in India’s grassroots have overzealously guarded their players from exposure or blocked them from exploring other, better opportunities. Ideally, if a talented young player is discovered in a state with poor infrastructure or coaching resources, the player should transfer elsewhere where a system can best enhance his or her natural penchant for the game. Unfortunately, there are too many players around the country who were never given that release – or even that encouragement – from their early coaches, and remained battling with mediocrity.

Punjab’s duo of Amjyot Singh and Palpreet Singh Brar are other examples of discovery left too late. Brar, like Amrit Pal, was a relatively unknown quantity before having his big breakout as India’s best player in the junior team at the FIBA Asia Under-18 Championship in Mongolia. Amjyot, at 22, might already be India’s best player. He was another one of the country’s top players at last summer’s FIBA Asia Cup and has the talent to be a professional player in Asia’s top leagues. But, just like Amrit Pal, the late bloom of both these players is only an example of how much more they could’ve done if their talent had been spotted earlier. With the right exposure and training earlier, all three bigs – Amrit Pal, Amjyot, and Palpreet – should’ve had an opportunity and earned a scholarship to develop their game further at a top US college.

Then, there are the cases like Tamil Nadu great Sozhasingarayer Robinson, known more simply as S. Robinson. The fan favourite power forward reached cult status when he scored 36 to help India beat South Korea at the 2004 Stankovic Cup. But clashes with authority led him to be banned from state and country, an early retirement, and an underwhelming comeback. Without proper guidance and a support system, the cold war between Robinson and the Federation robbed India of one of its great performers of the last decade.

Punjab’s explosive point guard TJ Sahi – nicknamed Air India – was a similar story of rebellion gone wrong and potential gone awry. On pure talent alone, Sahi should’ve been India’s starting point guard for the majority of the past 10 years. He has enjoyed a decent national team career and has had some notable highlights for India, and once outdid Blake Griffin’s ‘over the car’ dunk, with a more Indian remix. But Sahi only received his big break for Punjab at the junior level, when years of potential for the skilled young ball-handler were already wasted. Like Robinson, clashes with authority and lack of discipline denied him further greatness.

The one notable exception has been Satnam Singh Bhamara, the talented 7-footer out of Ballo Ke in Punjab, who was scouted and picked to play at the IMG Basketball Academy in Florida, USA, at 14. Bhamara’s game has developed gradually. Equally as importantly, he has learned invaluable lessons on improving his game off the court, such as his work in the weight room through strength and conditioning opportunities that would’ve never been available to him back home. But the IMG scholarship to Bhamara and a few others in 2010 was a one-off, and opportunities like that won’t be falling into the laps of our other good young players anytime soon.

Before he headed to Florida, Bhamara was a produce of India’s richest ‘bread basket of basketball’ in Punjab. In recent years, Bhamara, Sahi, Amrit Pal, Amjyot, Sahi, Brar, and other players like Jagdeep Singh Bains, Yadwinder Singh, Loveneet Singh Atwal, were all found and honed through the Ludhiana Basketball Academy in Punjab. The academy – and the state – has done a good job at developing the athletic talent available in the ‘Land of Five Rivers’, but their efforts need to dial up to begin training players at an earlier age, not just when it is a convenient time to start participating in state or national championships.

Hindsight, of course, is 20/20, and nothing can now change the lost opportunities of the past. What we can do is learn from the past to help improve the future. The players named above prove that ‘lack of talent’ is not an excuse anymore for India’s performances at the international level. India, and our billion plus, have a wealth of potential basketball talent, but unfortunately, it is too late by the time most of them are discovered and developed.

If scouted and trained in the right fundamentals of basketball earlier, India should be able to field a unit capable of challenging the best teams in the continent and feature star players who can play professionally in basketball leagues in Asia, Europe, or even the NBA.

February 9, 2015

International Basketball Association: Will Adam Silver's promise hold true for the NBA's global expansion?

Nearly a month ago in London, on the eve of the NBA's now-annual 'Global Games' regular season matchup - featuring the Milwaukee Bucks and the New York Knicks this year - NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made an eyebrow-raising statement to the English media. With an eye on the future of global sports leagues, Silver said that he wants to launch four European franchises, adding that, "It is our manifest destiny to expand."

Between the time that David Stern - Silver's predecessor - took over the helm of the NBA in the early 80s till Silver succeeded him last year, the NBA's global face has changed drastically. The league has become one of the most profitable and lucrative worldwide and its biggest stars have brand name recognition across all the continents. Over the past decade, the NBA Global has pushed the league into further reaches, bringing NBA teams and stars closer to international fans than ever before.

Now, on the week of the NBA All Star Weekend where two Spaniards (Pau and Marc Gasol) will be the game's starters, the Rising Stars Challenge will feature a USA vs. World game, international players will take part in the weekend's several smaller events, and Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan will become the first Indian to play in the All Star Celebrity Game, the question of this 'manifest destiny to expand' is sure to be posed ahead of Commissioner Silver again. In London, Silver spoke about expanding the game to Europe, but eventually, the Asian markets like China, Philippines, and potentially India will also shape the changing international nature of one of the world's fastest-growing leagues.

During the Global Games in London, Silver had admitted that the NBA had fallen behind in expansion schedule to the NFL, who have plans to start a franchise in England. "It will be easier logistically for them to pull it off," said Silver, "It would be difficult for us to have one team in Europe. We’d have to put both feet down. That would mean having four franchises in Europe."

Via the Guardian

He said that the arena infrastructure was improving across Europe with US-style arenas in place or under construction in England, Germany, France and Spain.
"We’re not there yet. I know that as much growth as we’ve seen, we have a long way to go before we can sustain four franchises in Europe,” said Silver, who has worked at the NBA since 1992. “On the other hand, I believe it’s our manifest destiny to expand."

Because of the talent and infrastructure in many European countries (excluding England, who are relative minnows in basketball), the continent is an obvious next shore if the NBA is to expand its borders across North America. It Silver's words are to hold true, the European expansion may still be up to a decade away. But is a sports league separated by the great distances of the Atlantic Ocean truly feasible, no matter how efficient and comfortable modern day travel may get? The time zone differences could add another caveat to the plans. Of course, there have been arguments that the NBA and Silver are getting ahead of themselves here, especially when there are more suitable markets in North America that deserve and are more primed to host an NBA team.

Still, the winds of change - and the future - are inevitable: the reality of the future is a smaller, flatter world, where business - including the business of playing sports - will become more global.

While the NBA's first steps as explorers of an expanding league seem to be in Europe, it is China and India - if the two massive populations are able to iron out their creases - that might end up being the most profitable future endeavours. In present day India, infrastructure, mismanagement, and organizational problems are clear red flags against any NBA dreams. Additionally, India has to first show that they can launch and handle our own basketball league before the NBA can even glance in this direction. Still, we are talking of decades into the future now, and Silver's comments about Europe may yet prove to be a foreshadow of the eventual reality by the middle of the 21st century.

The NBA isn't expanding anywhere outside of North America anytime soon, but - whether or not it is still under Adam Silver's leadership - the expansion will eventually happen one day. And by then, we'll have an international basketball association for a truly international sport.

February 6, 2015

Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan to play in NBA All-Star Celebrity Game this year

So what if no Indian player has yet played in an official NBA game, much less reach All-Star status? If we can't dominate through basketball, we'll happily dominate through Bollywood.

Bollywood superstar Abhishek Bachchan - one of the most recognizable faces of Indian cinema and a known supporter of basketball/NBA in India - has been chosen for the roster of the Celebrity Game at the NBA All-Star Weekend at Madison Square Garden in New York. This year's Celebrity Game will be held on Friday, February 13th (and hopefully broadcast live in India early morning on Saturday) and will feature several American celebrities through Hollywood, the music industry, and sports fame. Bachchan will become the first Indian celebrity to take part in the game in the annual game, which has been held at the NBA All Star Weekend since 2003.

The celebrities participating this year will include comedian/actor and three-time MVP Kevin Hart (although the third-time, he passed on the award to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan), film star Ansel Elgort, Anthony Anderson (Blackish), rapper/actor Common, Little League phenom Mo’ne Davis, Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, actor Chadwick Boseman (42), 'America’s Got Talent' host Nick Cannon, former NBA All-Star and New York Knicks Assistant General Manager Allan Houston, Basketball Hall of Famer Chris Mullin, gold medal-winning U.S. Paralympic athlete Blake Leeper, actor Michael Rapaport, Memphis Grizzlies owner Robert Pera, 'NBA Inside Stuff' co-host Kristen Ledlow, and WNBA stars Shoni Schimmel of the Atlanta Dream, Skylar Diggins of the Tulsa Shock and Tina Charles of the New York Liberty. The coaches/assistant coaches of the team will be Knicks All Star Carmelo Anthony, film director/Knicks fan Spike Lee, radio hosts Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg, and NBA Cares Ambassador Isaiah Austin.

Sure, the Celebrity Game is all fun and games, but for Bachchan - who will not be recognized by 90 percent of the North American population at the All Star Weekend - to be considered among the American celebrities is a big nod from the NBA to its growing Indian audience. Bachchan is a huge star in India and among NRIs worldwide, and his participation is going to surely increase the NBA's visibility in India's pop-culture news/media organizations.

Bachchan is the obvious choice, too, as he as clearly risen above the 'contenders' as India's most famous basketball fan. He has made it clear that he wants to be the first to volunteer to help the growth of basketball in India. Last month, Bachchan was the special guest at the UBA All India Inter-Zonal Basketball Championship in Chennai. He was the brand ambassador for NBA India and Jabong as they launched NBA Store in India last year. He has hung out with NBA's only Indian-owner, Vivek Ranadive (of the Sacramento Kings). He regularly tweets about the common suffering of all NBA fans in India: that of waking up early to watch live games. He is a huge Lakers supporter and shares mutual fandom with Magic Johnson, only one of the greatest players of All Time.

Bachchan is of 'Bollywood's First Family', the son of Bollywood great Amitabh Bachchan and husband of superstar Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. He has acted in several blockbuster films over the past 15 years, including the Dhoom series (which featured his wife and Hrithik Roshan in a very wet scene of pick-up hoops), Bunty Aur Babli, Sarkar, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Guru, Dostana, Paa, Bol Bachchan, and Happy New Year.

But none of the information above actually tells us how good he is going to be on court, among other, umm, "luminary" players, like Nick Cannon, Michael Rapaport, and Common, not to mention real talents like Allan Houston, Chris Mullin, and the WNBA trio of Diggins, Charles, and Schimmel. I don't have high hopes for Bachchan running a successful pick-and-pop with Kevin Hart, but hopefully he can make a bigger impression off the court. Maybe Spike Lee has a spot for a brown guy in his next movie.

An Indian NBA owner, an Indian-origin player in the D-League, and now, Abhishek Bachchan in the All Star Celebrity Game? These are indeed heady days for Desi Hoops. Now, can we fix our grassroots basketball development back home so some of our lost talents can actually play in a real NBA game one day?

February 5, 2015

Basketball tournament at 35th National Games in Kerala to be held next week

After a four-year absence, the National Games - which are basically inter-state Olympics - have returned this week, organized by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). The 2015 Nationals Games, the games' 35th iteration since the very first ones were held in 1924, are being held from January 31 to February 14 across seven districts in Kerala. 36 of India's 37 states and union territories (Bihar is the odd one out as they have been banned by the IOA) A total of 33 sports disciplines are being competed for at this year's national games and basketball will return to the fray again in both the senior Men and Women's divisions.

The National Games are being held in the districts of Thiruvanathapuram, Kollam, Alapuzha, Ernakulam, Kozhikode, Trissur, and Kannur and Kerala. The basketball tournament is scheduled from February 9-13 and will be held at the Indoor Stadium in Mundayad (Kannur), the largest indoor stadium in the state.

As reported earlier on Ekalavyas, a total of 16 teams (eight in each Men/Women division) have confirmed participation at the 35th National Games Basketball Tournament. The participating teams are:

  • Pool A: Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Chhattisgarh.
  • Pool B: Punjab, Services, Karnataka, Haryana.
  • Pool A: Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh.
  • Pool B: Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka.
The previous national games were held in Jharkhand in 2011, with Punjab (Men) and Tamil Nadu (Women) emerging as basketball champions. The two holders will once again be some of the toughest teams at this year's tournament, but recent success for Uttarakhand (Men) and Chhattisgarh (Women) at the Senior National Basketball Championship will have those two teams confident of the gold medal, too.

The full schedule of the basketball tournament at the Games can be found over at Ekalavyas.com.

The National Games are set to have a new format and in the future, will be held annually in India.

February 1, 2015

Global Citizen

Having started his pro career in China, Congolese-American hoop star Emmanuel Mudiay has already shown he has the talent and courage that legendary careers are made of.

by Karan Madhok. Photos by Yin Di.

This feature was originally published in the March 2015 edition of SLAM Magazine (SLAM No. 185). You can also find it on SLAMOnline.com.

It’s 2014, and 18-year-old Emmanuel Mudiay is learning about a new city. As he tries to familiarize himself with Guangdong in Southern China, he dabbles in learning a little bit of Mandarin, embracing the new culture, dealing with the bumps and grinds on the basketball court and the attention a blossoming star gets off of it.

It’s 1999, and 3-year-old Mudiay has picked up a basketball for the first time in his life. He knows what the round object is, but beyond feeling the texture of the ball, he doesn’t think much of it. In Kinshasa, the capital of Congo and Mudiay’s birthplace, there are more pressing matters to consider, like the Second Congo War, which turns into the deadliest conflict on Earth since World War II.

It’s 2002, and Mudiay has a basketball in his hands again. He’s 6 years old and playing in his first organized game. The texture of the ball may not have changed as much, but everything else in his life has. Mudiay’s family has left the violence and the hunger of central Africa behind them. He’s in Dallas, TX, settling into a new country, a new culture.

We’re back in 2014, and that bouncy ball has changed his life. Mudiay has just wrapped up his stellar high school years as a consensus All-American, and convinced scouts that he is set to become one of the NBA’s top Draft picks. He seems to be destined to take the popular one-and-done route through college. He has even committed to the SMU Mustangs. Only, he decides to break from tradition, refuses to let NBA rules determine his chosen path, forgoes college and goes pro.

In November of 2014, Emmanuel Mudiay plays his first official professional game of basketball, representing the Chinese Basketball Association’s (CBA) Guangdong Southern Tigers. A few months before the start of the CBA season, Under Armour inks him to a lucrative, multi-year contract that will span his time in China and a (hopefully successful) early NBA career, reaffirming the faith of many in the young guard’s potential.

Before an ankle injury sidelines him just 10 days into the season, Mudiay shows glimpses of dominance for a team with championship aspirations.

Mudiay’s China adventure took a twist toward uncertainty after his injury. At the time of writing, Guangdong had replaced Mudiay in its lineup with former Detroit Piston Will Bynum, and there was no official confirmation from the team that Mudiay would take the floor again before the CBA season concludes. That said, we spoke to a source in the US who is close to Mudiay’s camp who assured us that Emmanuel has every intention of getting healthy and finishing his season in Guangdong, and that the Southern Tigers are (smartly) happy to have him.

Regardless of any uncertainty around Mudiay’s future, it’s guaranteed to be as interesting, if not more so, than his past.

You’ll hear from him a lot more in the coming months, whether he is helping Guangdong make a push for the CBA championship or impressing scouts at pre-Draft workouts in preparation for the NBA.

From Congo to Dallas to China, Mudiay has already charted a course that has taken him further at 18 years than most people get to go in their lifetime. But for the young phenom, this is just the beginning; With an ambitious, long-term plan for his future, Mudiay wants to leave no doubt that his tomorrow will be better than his yesterday.

In China, I speak to Mudiay about the journey and struggles of yesterday, the juncture at which he stands today, and his ever-so-bright tomorrow.

“It’s a blessing,” he says, “It makes me happy, but at the same time, I’m not satisfied. I’m still working as if I’m struggling. That’s my mindset and I’ll work like that ’til the last game I play in my career. I don’t wanna see nobody in my family, my kids, my grandkids, struggling for money. I know I’m still young, but I think that far ahead.”


Mudiay was just an infant in Kinshasha, capital of the country formerly known as Zaire, when he lost his father. After the First Congo War, Zaire became the Democratic Republic of Congo. Peace didn’t last much longer: By 1998 the large-scale Second Congo War displaced and destroyed the lives of millions in Congo and nearby nations, mostly from disease and starvation.

“I don’t remember much of that time,” Mudiay says. “I just remember that my mom and my brothers had to all take care of each other.”

In 2001 - when Emmanuel was 5 years old - his family was granted asylum to the USA and found a home in Dallas. The adjustment to a new culture was much easier for him as the youngest member of the family. “For me, it was OK,” he recalls, “but for my older and middle brother it was a little bit different. They were older. But eventually, we all settled.”

The rest has been pretty well-documented history. Mudiay grew into a 6-5 point guard, blessed with the explosiveness, strength, open-court athleticism to match the world’s best and the size to overpower many others who play his position. He excelled at Arlington (TX) Grace Preparatory and then Prime Prep (of Deion Sanders’ fame/infamy) in Dallas, capping off his high-school career with invites to the Jordan Brand Classic and the McDonald’s All-American Game, as well as a commitment to nearby SMU, where he could have had a chance a play for legendary head coach Larry Brown.

But instead of heading to SMU, Mudiay took the road less traveled to play professionally overseas to fill in the year between high school and the NBA. He chose China over college, a decision that came with its share of doubts and questions in the basketball world.

“I didn’t wanna see my mom and my family struggling no more,” Mudiay says. “They’re my motivation. My family is good now, but I’m thinking about their kids, my kids…I never wanna see them struggle.

“My goal is to be in the NBA, but right now, I’m just trying to get better and learn as much as I can to get to the next level. People are gonna talk, and whether it’s good or bad, I only care about my team and let God decide the rest.”

Mudiay’s decision has rubbed some critics the wrong way, as they fear his decision might boost the tide of young players choosing big money in leagues like China instead of a shot at college. Even Coach Brown—who still maintains a strong relationship with Mudiay—told a few publications back home that, although he was excited for the young Emmanuel’s future, he wasn’t too high on the precedent that it might set for others.

When I shared Brown’s comments with Mudiay, his response displayed a maturity far beyond his years. “He’s right,” Mudiay says. “I got a lot of respect for Coach Brown. I know he’s proud of me and what I’m doing. But this decision is not for everybody. The opportunity was there for me so I took it. Some people might wanna do it, some might not. It’s different for everyone.

“I’m here with my family and that’s helping me a lot. Your circle has to be strong. For the long run this was the better choice for me. [Coach Brown] is probably right: This is not for everybody. But for me it was the best thing. If more players do it, I hope that they’ll be mentally ready and have the right people around them.”

Before his ankle sprain in late November, Mudiay’s early performances in China displayed glimpses of the potential that has made so many scouts rank him as one of the top picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. By his third professional game, he had notched a triple-double. In Guangdong’s win over Qingdao, Mudiay had 29 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals. Through the 10 games he played in before the ankle injury and before we went to press, Mudiay was averaging close to 18 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists per game in China.

But CBA stats should be taken with a pinch of wei jing. This is a league where, a month into the new season, undrafted American Errick McCollum was averaging over 40 points per game. Former Brooklyn schoolboy hero and short-time Sacramento King Quincy Douby channeled his inner Wilt Chamberlain a couple seasons ago by dropping 75 points in a game, a CBA scoring record.

In most cases, the foreign or “import” players in the CBA (usually, each team is allowed only two) are handed the responsibilities of dominating every aspect of the team’s play on the court and the stat sheets. But Mudiay’s Guangdong has long been an exception to the rule. The Southern Tigers usually have a much more democratic approach, where each player—even the most talented imports, such as Mudiay—have had to play as a part of the system instead of becoming the system itself. Currently, Guangdong features seven players from the Chinese national team, including four-time CBA MVP and former NBA Lottery pick Yi Jianlian.

“Most teams want [the import players] to just score,” says Mudiay of his time with Guangdong. “But here, they want us to be part of the team, not just focus on scoring. We have a game-plan to follow, of course, but Coach [Du Feng] lets me play my game, whether that’s finding teammates or scoring myself. Whatever the ‘D’ shows me, that’s how I play. Being a point guard, you have to be a leader from Day One. I’m an 18-year-old, directing 30-year-old men on court.”


It’s the end of 2014 and as he tries to capitalize on the present moment, Emmanuel Mudiay—still a few months shy of his 19th birthday—is keeping a watchful eye on the future.

I ask Mudiay if he has already charted a vision for the rest of his career. He leaves no doubt that there is already a highly detailed blueprint. “Oh yeah, I know what I want by the time I’m 40 years old. I won’t be satisfied until I’m in the Hall of Fame. I won’t be satisfied until I’m that successful. Everybody says that they want to be the best, but when I say it, believe me, I really mean it,” Mudiay emphasizes.

“I love new challenges—I’m going through one right now. So anything that comes by way, I’ll be ready. No doubt, my goal is to be the No. 1 pick. It takes a lot of hard work, but I’m putting in that work and I’m keeping my faith. Honestly, it’s all faith. I’m a very spiritual person. Everything I do—sports, school—I just have to credit God before any decision. It’s been a blessed journey and it’s far from over. I’m only 18, but the best is yet to come. I’ll keep working.”