April 26, 2019

Abbas Moontasir: Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

Even today, decades after he took his official final shot from the game, the legend of Abbas Moontasir rings loud around his neighbourhood in Nagpada, around Mumbai, and across the nation. The feisty guard who picked up the game in some of Mumbai's roughest bastis went on to become a legend for the game, captaining the Indian national team, starring at the international stage in the 1960s-70s, and winning the coveted Arjuna Award. He is the newest addition to the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Born in Mumbai in 1942, Moontasir picked up basketball from American missionaries in the Nagpada area, in what is now known as the iconic Late Bachookhan Municipal Playground. He played for Bombay University, Maharashtra state, and then reached his peak with Western Railways. His international debut also came in his hometown against an Australian side in 1960. Moontasir captained Team India in two FIBA Asia Championships, in 1969 and 1975, and was also the member of the Indian team that participated in the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok. He took part in the 10th Anniversary confederation Tournament in Manila and was chosen for the Asian All-Star team in 1970.

The same year, Moontasir was given the rare distinction of the Arjuna Award in basketball. He went on to play for the country and for Railways (despite a few years lost in between to suspension) until 1986, when he retired at age 44.

Off the court, Moontasir authored a book called 'Principles of Basketball' and, like every well-known Mumbaikar, flirted with Bollywood in two films: Khoon Ki Takkar (1981) and Aashiana (1986). Now 77, he continues to be a guiding force in Nagpada and for basketball in Mumbai.

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

April 25, 2019

Former NBA champ Harrison Barnes to visit India next week

Harrison Barnes probably didn't think that his summer would unfold this way. The former NBA champ (with the Golden State Warriors) started the 2018-19 season with the Dallas Mavericks, but was traded before the deadline in February to another rebuilding squad, the Sacramento Kings. And, less than two months into his stint with Sacramento, Barnes is not a representative for the Kings in the opposite end of the globe, carrying the team's flag to India in anticipation for the biggest offseason yet in Indian NBA history.

In October this year, the NBA will hold two preseason games in India - between the Kings and Indiana Pacers - for the first time in history. Barnes, a smooth-scoring forward and the newest member of the Kings, will be visiting India to promote the continuing growth of basketball in the country and the upcoming NBA India Games 2019 from April 28 - May 3, 2019, announced the NBA.

Barnes will first stop in Delhi NCR on April 28 to attend the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA National Finals at The NBA Academy India. He will then travel to Mumbai for live television appearances on Sony Ten 1 and Sony Ten 3's NBA wraparound shows on April 30, before returning to Delhi on May 3 to attend the National Finals of the fourth ACG-NBA Jump, India's national basketball talent search programme.

"This trip to India will be a great opportunity for me to get a sneak peek of the local culture before the upcoming preseason games in Mumbai this October," said Barnes. "I look forward to being a part of that historic event, and I'm excited to help support the NBA's various basketball development initiatives in India."

A 6-8 forward, Barnes was drafted into the NBA 7th overall in 2012 by the Golden State Warriors, where he grew into a solid foundation piece as the team - led by Stephen Curry, Klay Thomspson, and Draymond Green - developed into a championship contender. He was in the Warriors starting lineup as the team won the 2015 NBA title and remained an integral part of the team that won a record 73 games in the 2015-16 regular season, only to lose in the Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers. To make room for their historic acquisition of Kevin Durant in 2016, the Warriors let Barnes go to the Dallas Mavericks. He played two-and-a-half years in Dallas before being traded to Sacramento in exchange for Zach Randolph and Justin Jackson.

In 28 appearances with the Kings, Barnes averaged 14.3 points and 5.5 rpg. The 26-year-old will serve a veterans role for the Kings squad that will visit India, who are boosted by exciting young players like De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovich, and Marvin Bagley.

April 19, 2019

Sarbjit Singh - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

Today's entry into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame is a throwback - way back - to one of the game's earliest stars, Sarbjit Singh. After the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) was formed in 1950, Independent India tentatively began to field its first international teams in events like the Asian Games and other international tournaments. Singh was a major part of those teams, as well as a star domestically for Services, who enjoyed national championship success in the 50s.

Singh stamped his place permanently in 1961, when he became the first basketball player to be conferred the Arjuna Award, in the first year that the Awards were handed in India by the Ministry of Sports.

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

April 14, 2019

Hoopdarshan Episode 75: 2019 NBA Playoffs Preview with Akshay Manwani

To preview the upcoming NBA playoffs, NBA analyst and commentator Akshay Manwani joins Hoopdarshan's co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok to discuss the battle-royale in the East, the greatness of Giannis and Harden, the challengers to Golden State in the West, and the players, teams, and moments that have defined this NBA season so far.

In addition, Kaushik and Karan also discuss recent Indian basketball news, including the hiring of new head coach Veselin Matic, the launch of Red Bull Reign in India, and the Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Hoopdarshan is the truest voice of Indian basketball, and since we're such hopeless fans of the game, it will become the voice of everything basketball related we love, from the NBA to international hoops, too. On every episode of Hoopdarshan, we will be inviting a special guest to interview or chat to about a variety of topics. With expert insight from some of the brightest and most-involved people in the world of Indian basketball, we hope to bring this conversation to a many more interested fans, players, and followers of the game.

Make sure to follow Hoopdarshan on Soundcloud or search for 'Hoopdarshan' on the iTunes Store! Auto-sync Hoopdarshan to your preferred podcast app NOW!

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Geethu Anna Rahul - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

There has been a recent explosion of Indian basketball stars making a name for themselves abroad, playing in Japan, playing in Australia, in the US, even getting all the day to the NBA draft. But before there was all this, there was Geethu. Geethu Anna Rahul (formerly Jose) is one of the greatest players to ever set foot on a basketball court in India - in any gender. Through a scintillating career over the past decade, Rahul emerged as an indomitable force in the Indian domestic scene, played pro abroad, got a sniff of the WNBA, and ended up with the Arjuna Award. For her accomplishments, she's the newest addition to the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Born in Kottayam, Kerala, Rahul began her career with Kerala's team, and later, with Southern Railway in Tamil Nadu in the early 2000s. She shot up to 6-foot-2 by the time she became a senior player, and soon overshadowed every other player of her generation. She played in eleven national championships for Railways, winning 10 gold medals, and finishing second only once, to Chhattisgarh in 2014.

Internationally, she was the only Indian player to play at a level that left the highest-level of opponents scrambling for answers. At the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia, she finished as the basketball tournament’s MVP, leading scorer, leading rebounder, and leading shot-blocker. In 2009, Chennai hosted the FIBA ABC, and Rahul was named India’s captain. Making the most of the home court inspiration, she helped India return to Level 1 with a sixth-place finish and ended as the tournament’s top scorer. She also helped India win gold at the FIBA Asia 3×3 Basketball Championship in Qatar.

Rahul became the first Indian player to play professionally in Australia, representing the Ringwood Hawks, where she won MVP of the Big V division and was selected by the WNBL. In 2011, she made history by receiving invitations to tryout for three WNBA teams. She and her Railways’ teammate Pauldurai also played a season professionally in Thailand.

She played in her final FIBA ABC in 2013 and became only the second Indian women (up to that point) to be conferred the Arjuna Award in 2014.

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

April 13, 2019

Hoopistani on... Basketball Babas!

I love the NBA Playoffs more than I love most things in my life.

Real life is filled with little daily challenges, like bargaining with the auto-wallah, or worrying about the elections, or making sure I don't crack my laptop's motherboard again. But the NBA world is the tonic for all the pains, and there is no better amrit for long life like the postseason.

And this time, thanks to the help of Nation of Sport, I was able to crank up my playoff-enthusiasm to the next level. Earlier this week, I joined the NoS YouTube programme 'Basketball Babas' - as the third 'Baba' alongside Jonathan Rego and Ashwin Gopinath - to sit down for nearly two hours and discuss the long road ahead for each team in both conferences. In this special two-part episode, we spoke about each of the eight first-round matchups, made our predictions for which teams will work their way to the Finals, and even imagined the best-case narratives for each of the 16 teams to possibly win the 2019 title.

So please watch, comment, shout, murmur, share... and enjoy the playoffs!

Part 1: Eastern Conference

Part 2: Western Conference

April 8, 2019

Sankaran Subramanian - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

One of the greatest and most influential coaches in Indian basketball history, the late Dr. Sankaran Subramanian is the second inductee into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame. Subramanian passed away in 2013 at age 75, after offering over 40 years to the service of Indian basketball. His legacy is particularly highlighted by his leadership at the Ludhiana Basketball Academy, where he helped nurture dozens of India's best players.

Subramanian was born in Pirancheri village in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. He played basketball for his school and college teams and later joined Indian Air Force in the year 1958. He took to coaching after that in 1968, working with the Air Force team and with Services and leading them to wins in several national level tournaments.

From 1968 onwards, he had been thoroughly involved in coaching and developing players in Punjab and for the Indian national team. Subramanian was the coach of the Punjab state team, the director and chief of the Ludhiana Basketball Academy (LBA) in Punjab and also the director of the National Institute of Sports in Patiala. While head coach of the Punjab State teams from 2000-2013, and led them to an era of great dominance, collecting 14 Gold, 13 Silver and 9 Bronze Medals in Sub-Junior, Youth, Junior and Senior National Championships. Under his tutelage, Punjab's Senior Men's team won the National Championship in 2012 and finished as runners-up in 2013.

A great number of talented stars blossomed under his tutelage, including Arjuna Award winner Manmohan Singh, Paramjit Singh, who represented Indian in the 1980 Olympic Basketball team, and Tarlok Singh Sandhu. Of the current era, Subramanian's LBA produced national players and stars like TJ Sahi, Yadwinder Singh, Jagdeep Singh Bains, Palpreet Singh Brar, Amjyot Singh (NBA G-League), Amrit Pal Singh (NBL Australia), and Satnam Singh Bhamara (first Indian drafted into the NBA). He also trained women's international Kiranjit Kaur. You can read more about Subramanian in my eulogy for him written in 2013.

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

April 3, 2019

Ajmer Singh Chopra - Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

The very first inductee into the Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame is Ajmer Singh Chopra, the 6’5” swingman who is one of the most-accomplished Indian hoopers in history. Chopra’s career highlights include starring as India’s best player in our only Olympic basketball appearance (Moscow 1980), winning the 1982 Arjuna Award, and dominating in many more international and domestic championships.

Chopra was born in Rukanpur village near Karnal (Haryana) in 1953, just three years after the establishment of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI). He moved to Kota to hone his basketball skills, where he played for Rajasthan University. Chopra’s skills got him hired by Indian Railways, whom he represented domestically for several years of success, and continued to work for after retirement from the game. He played in 22 consecutive national championships for Haryana, Rajasthan, and Railways, and finished with 8 gold medals.

Internationally, Chopra represented India in multiple FIBA Asia Championships. His career peak, however, came in India’s unlikely qualification for the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, the first and only time that India has played basketball on the Olympic stage. Although India lost all seven games they participated in, Chopra shone individually, averaging a team-high 21.3 points per game to go with 5.4 rpg as well. He ended up as one of the top scorers in thr tournament. Two years later, in the 1982 Asian Games, he was again the tournament’s top scorer. Through the 70s and 80s, Chopra also represented Indian Railways in many international tournaments abroad.

Chopra was known to be an unstoppable scorer who was the country’s top option during their earlier “golden age” of basketball in the 70s/80s. In 1982, he was handed one of the nation’s top scoring honours, the Arjuna Award. He also received the highest sporting honours by both Haryana and Rajasthan states.

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

April 2, 2019

Presenting... The Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame

It's been around 90 years since basketball was rumoured to be first played on Indian soil. By 1934, India conducted their first national championship; got affiliation to FIBA by 1936; formed the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) soon after independence in 1950; and fielded an international team for the Asian Games in New Delhi in 1951. India has been a consistent participant in Asian basketball championships, Asian Games, and other international tournaments for the past 70 years and in 1980, the Men's basketball team even played in the Olympic Games in Russia!

It hasn't always been a successful history relative to other nations in Asia (and worldwide), but in the span of the past near-century, India has produced a number of dominant players, game-changing coaches, and other important officials and administrators that have left a mark. Often, they did so while swimming against the tide, succeeding in a sport that struggled with internal strife and external ignorance.

In their 2019 Annual General Meeting, the BFI announced that they will be launching a 'BFI Hall of Fame' to honour legends of the Indian basketball family. But given their history of delay, political biases, and other factors, it is unlikely their HOF will give the timely (already overdue) recognition to the greats of the game. Over the years, a few dozen Indian basketballers have been presented with the Arjuna Award and honoured in their home states. One, very recently, even won the Padma Shri. But there are still many more waiting to be celebrated and honoured.

To commemorate the greats of Indian basketball history, I have decided to start my own Indian Basketball Hall of Fame series. It's my small way of celebrating those who paved the way: a special mention on this blog. Every week, I will add a new player to the list below, with a link that will give a short description of their career highlights.

I want to thank all of those in the Indian basketball family on social media who helped me compile an incredible database of names to get started with. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

Hoopistani Indian Basketball Hall of Fame Inductees