History will be made in October 2019 when the Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers arrive in Mumbai to play the first NBA game in Indian soil. The teams will play two pre-season games on October 4 and 5 at the NSCI Dome in Worli.
The matches signify the continued efforts made by the NBA to further promote basketball in India after setting up the NBA Academy in 2017.
NBA Deputy Commissioner, Mark Tatum said the Indiana Pacers volunteered to play in India, living up to its reputation of being a young, exciting squad. Interestingly, the Kings' majority owner is Mumbai-born Vivek Ranadive, for whom the India connect is understandable.
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Tatum explained: “We are making these investments to grow the fan base (for NBA) for the last seven years. The time is now right to get teams to play games here. We know that when we get the NBA here, fans will be excited to watch and there will a lot of activity around these matches.”
Asked about activities around the October games, he said, “We are doing several NBA Cares event in the community, trying to figure out a way. Every time we go somewhere, internationally or in the USA, we always give back to the community.”
Basketball has grown to become one of the biggest sports in China since the NBA's arrival in 2004. Yao Ming was among the finest talents to emerge from the country, and he went on to play for Houston Rockets for eight seasons.
The NBA now hopes to emulate such success in India too. “We don’t have a Yao Ming here, but in the last three years Indian basketball had a player who got drafted (into an NBA side) in Satnam Singh. I know because I called his name at the draft, shook hands with him when he came up. There is Amjyot Singh, playing in the NBA Second Division and there is Princepal Singh, a kid from the NBA India academy who was sent to an NBA Global Academy in Australia, where the best academy prospects compete,” said Tatum.
“He has a shot at playing college basketball and even the NBA, so we are seeing progress. The talent is there, we see skills improving at the academy. It takes time to take kids to that (NBA) level,” he added.