NBA in India: Hoop, set and match

Sacramento Kings’ new recruit Harrison Barnes keen to embrace Indian culture and blend it with basketball as the games come to Mumbai on October 4 and 5.

Harrison Barnes in action at FIBA World Cup 2019.   -  FILE PHOTO/AP

 

Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers are set to play two pre-season games in Mumbai in NBA’s India debut on October 4 and 5; the players and officials are thrilled to be part of this journey.

“I was there earlier in the year and I think it’s going to be a really exciting time for us to have the first ever games in India. It’s very surreal for me to see the whole thing come full circle. From an Indian owning a team to playing the first game there.

“My team-mates and everyone are really looking forward to it,” Sacramento Kings’ new recruit Harrison Barnes told reporters at a global media conference on Thursday.

Barnes also claimed that he has already spoken to his team-mates about the Indian culture and tradition. “The biggest thing I’ve tried to tell my team-mates is that the culture here is beautiful.

READ| NBA tightens traveling violations with new language

“I’ve always been a huge fan of Indian food and getting to try the authentic food was an experience. The chance to see the Taj Mahal was also great for me. It was also great to work with the kids at the NBA Academy in India and getting ready for the Jr. NBA World Championships,” Barnes, who visited India in April this year, said.

With the Kings owned by an Indian, Vivek Ranadive, Barnes did speak to him before his maiden trip to India.

“He told me, ‘You’ll see and experience a lot of different things so just go with it.’ I remember we saw the India Gate and seeing that and seeing a small glimpse of India and so many people there helped me open my eyes and see how big the world really is. Basketball has to connect people all across the world,” Barnes said.

This trip eats into a bit of the training camp time. But Vlade Divac, the General Manager of the Sacramento Kings, believes that it shouldn’t be a problem. “To play in the NBA is not easy and we can make a lot of excuses. But the NBA players are very hardworking and I think that this will be a great opportunity for them to spend time together as a team and bond in India,” Divac said.

ALSO READ| Michael Jordan selling part of Hornets to two New York investors

“This is a first NBA game in that country and there is excitement among players. They want to put up a good show,” Kevin Pritchard, the General Manager of the Indiana Pacers, said.

Pritchard feels NBA in India was possible due to the strong bonding and friendship of the owners of the two teams — Ranadive and Herbert Simon.

All this while, an NBA game in India looked like a distant dream. But things will soon turn into reality when the ball gets rolling at the NSCI Dome.