The NBA’s grassroots development programmes aim to introduce sport to youth throughout the country, to foster a generation of healthy and active boys and girls. While we will continue laying the foundation, we invariably look ahead and think, what’s next? How do we begin identifying and nurturing the elite-level prospects? How do we empower budding talent and provide them the platform to hone their skills and grow, not only in the sport but also outside of it? We also realise that Indian parents are the biggest influencers and decision makers in their children’s life and most of them do not set any athletic goals for their children. Academia rightly remains a focus, but how do we strike a balance?
The NBA believes that it is the utmost essential element, to not only develop but also create avenues that would generate a pool of elite players of national/international standards.
One of our first grassroots initiatives, the Reliance Foundation Junior NBA programme, has made a positive impact and created a shift in perception when it comes to basketball. We will engage 3.5 million kids this year through the programme. The numbers have steadily progressed in the last three years of its existence. There are more kids in India than ever bouncing balls. In a cricket crazy nation like India, we entered with an ambition to be the second most popular game and are enthusiastically charging towards it.
With that in mind, we set out to create an eco-system where studies or sports won’t be compromised. While academics and athletics both individually shape lives, they need not be mutually exclusive. NBA Academy India, an elite basketball development academy that includes educational development for the top male and female prospects from India, is our vision of a no compromise scenario — where young boys and girls can focus on their studies while also pursuing their dreams in sport.
NBA Academy India will support existing international basketball academies by exposing 24 elite prospects to NBA-level coaching, facilities and competition, and by providing a global framework for elite-level prospects to maximise their success.
At the NBA, we strongly believe that the more well represented we are with international talent, the better off we will be. We have a record 113 international players from a record 41 countries and territories who are playing on opening night rosters for the 2016-17 season and we believe this figure will continue to rise as the game continues to grow globally.
Each of our elite training centres will be staffed with NBA-trained coaches to foster the development of prospects, on and off the court, both during and after their basketball careers. We think top international prospects will benefit from a complete approach to player-development that combines NBA-quality coaching, training and competition with academics and personal development.
The selected 24 players will get a 100% scholarship and receive high-quality education, which takes care of one of the key concerns of Indian parents. More often than not, taking up basketball hasn’t been considered as a secure career.
The stress to excel academically or to start earning has remained constant in Indian parents’ minds that restricted participation in the sport. But by the 360-degree approach of NBA Academy India, we plan to eliminate this issue and provide the player everything he/she needs to excel both on and off the court.
This initiative continues our efforts to develop basketball around the world at both the grassroots and elite levels. Reliance Foundation Junior NBA is the league’s youth basketball participation programme for boys and girls has also engaged over 3,000 PE teachers in addition to the kids through its basketball participation efforts since its inception in 2013.
In 2015, the league conducted more than 218 international Junior NBA events in 94 cities and 39 countries outside of the U.S., featuring 253 current and former players, coaches and trainers.
At the elite level, the NBA also conducts Basketball Without Borders (BWB), an NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach programme for top international prospects. Since 2001, the NBA and FIBA have staged 48 BWB camps in 29 cities in 25 countries on six continents, with 43 BWB campers drafted into the NBA. Eleven coaches and three youth players from India participated in BWB Asia Camp in Australia earlier this year.
We strive to continue doing the best for basketball in the country and ensure that we find more Satnams and Palpreets from India.
The author is the Managing Director of NBA India