It’s time for India to hoop, set and match!
The tall and suave NBA stars are here to showcase their skills in pre-season friendlies for the next couple of days.
When the two-day NBA India Games kick off at the NSCI Dome in Mumbai on Friday, with Sacramento Kings taking on Indiana Pacers, it certainly will be a dream come true for the country’s basketball fans who have been waiting for this moment since long. After all, this is for the first time that two NBA outfits will be playing a game in India; just like the millions of fans, the players, too, are excited.
Enjoying the sights
Sneak into social media platforms and you will find how the two teams have made sure they enjoy each moment in India. The Kings’ players and the support staff visited the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra on Wednesday, before heading to Mumbai, and those pictures shine bright on their social media platforms.
But they will put on their game faces when the first contest begins. “In two games, we will have two different teams. One will be about starters and the other will be about back-ups,” Kevin Pritchard, the General Manager of the Indiana Pacers, said.
Over the years, the NBA Global Games have become regular fixtures in England, China and Japan and now in a bid to expand beyond North America, the NBA is finally here in Mumbai — which also happens to be the home-town of Sacramento Kings’ owner, Vivek Ranadive.
‘A ton of logistics and preparation’
Though the business tycoon is settled abroad, Ranadive grew up in the city and has played an instrumental role in bringing the games to Mumbai. “The idea of playing the first game in a new country is something we are really looking forward to. It’s because of the relation between Ranadive and Herbert Simon (Pacers owner) is what has made this game happen. We’ve spoken about this game for some years now and there was a ton of logistics and preparation that was involved and it’s up to the teams now to put on a great show and more than that we have a great opportunity to spread the game in a new country,” Pritchard said.
The first of the two games will be witnessed by 3,000 young cagers from more than 70 schools under the Reliance Foundation Junior NBA programme, while most of the tickets for the second game — priced between ₹4,500 to ₹85,000 — have been sold out.
And that shows the level of excitement.
All eyes on De'Aaron Fox
In the NBA league table, the last few seasons have not been too fruitful for either team. While the Pacers have lost in the first round the last four years, the Kings last made the playoffs in the 2005-2006 season. But for fans in this part of the world, those statistics hardly matter as they are keen to watch Kings’ 21-year-old recruit, De'Aaron Fox. The young gun was eighth in the entire NBA in assists last year, providing scoring opportunities for others on his team. Though the Pacers will miss their top player, Victor Oladipo, they will bank on Malcolm Brogdon, who signed with the side this year.
NBA is all about the pace and in the two-and-a-half-hour sojourn, the Indian fans have plenty to look forward to.