NBA plans to launch a league in India

NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, said on Friday that it was looking to launch a basketball league in India, following the footsteps of Basketball Africa League.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver noted that Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive has spoken to him about starting a 12-team league in India.   -  (Getty Images)

Looks like the NBA has bigger plans for India! Ahead of its first-ever pre-season fixture between Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings at the NSCA Dome on Friday, NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, said they are in ‘serious consideration’ to launch a league in India.

Silver noted that Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive -- who was born and raised in Mumbai -- has had talks with him about the formation of a 12-team league in India, following the footsteps of Basketball Africa League -- which begins in March, next year.

“One of the things we have been discussing recently -- and I know this is something else my friend Vivek is pushing me on -- is the ability to launch a league here in India,” Silver said.

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“We have wonderful partners in the Reliance Foundation, with Sony Ten, our broadcaster, and some of our other top-notch corporate relationships here. That is something we are openly having discussions on,” the NBA commissioner said.

However, for the league to happen, there is an immediate need of proper infrastructure and more basketball arenas. “This is a fantastic facility we're in today, but it required us bringing in a court, a scoreboard, seats, locker rooms. And it's relatively small by NBA standards.

“I have had some interesting discussions with developers over the last two days here. I think it's inevitable that there will be state-of-the-art arenas in major cities in India, in part because these are multi-use facilities and live entertainment is increasingly important here as well. Of course, a great arena can have concerts and other shows. But we do need to see those arenas over time in order to play more games,” Silver said.

When the NBA came to India a few years ago, it took baby steps to make its presence felt in the Indian market. And within five years, it has managed to bring in two top teams for pre-season friendlies. Silver sees it as a big achievement: “I will say that I was not sure five years ago that was something that was even possible. But because of changes in technology, the explosion of 5G that is reducing latency, allowing incredible numbers of connections in dense urban area, the engagement we're seeing from young fans here through mobile technology, plus the academy that we now have in Delhi and the large numbers of young people playing, I think there's an opportunity to do that,” he said.

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“And also, where we would again see players coming into the NBA and WNBA. There's also an enormous pool of young women playing the game as well. And, two, serious consideration of the launch of a league,” he continued.

The NBA played its first overseas game in Tel Aviv, way back in 1978 and has consistently played pre-season games abroad since 1991. They have played 200 games in over 20 countries. This year, the league is also having NBA Global games in Japan, China and Canada.

Even Sacramento Kings owner, Ranadive, is confident of launching the league soon. “Hopefully, we can launch a league right here in India. I hope in the next 10 years that we'll have at least one player that comes out of the system that plays in the NBA. We already see players. And I fully expect that there will be arenas that spring up across the country where we can play these games,” Ranadive said.

“I have talked to the Prime Minister about arenas and the importance of arenas in smart cities and in cities of the future, and I know he's committed to that,” he added.