As a sign of efforts to grow basketball in India, the US-based National Basketball Association (NBA), the Basketball Federation of India and the University of Delaware in the US are close to signing a memorandum of understanding that would allow Indian players to train overseas, according to several people who are involved in the negotiations.
Aspiring basketball stars would practice under top American league coaches and at home after an agreement is signed by the principal stakeholders. But the targeted beneficiaries are sceptical, saying they still don’t see much of a career in the sport in India.
Federation secretary Harish Sharma didn’t give a time frame, but said he was hopeful of an agreement “very soon.”
Playing ball: The programme is the result of a partnership between the Indian and American basketball organizations to grow the game.
India also is vying to host the Asian leg of the Basketball Without Borders programme—a joint initiative of the NBA and the Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA), the sport’s top governing body globally—to spread basketball worldwide.
The Delaware training programme is the result of a partnership between the Indian and American basketball organizations to popularize the game in India, a development reported in a front-page Mint story on 17 February. The Indian body hopes the NBA brand would bring in sorely-needed sponsors, and help build a professional league that could attract talent to the sport.
The NBA, too, sees a future in India’s vast middle class, and sent an eight-member team to scope out business opportunities here in November. “Our interest is to grow the sport in India,” said NBA spokesman Matt Bourne.
But it is under no illusion either; Sau Ching Cheong, a member of the NBA women’s team that visited India last year, described the Herculean effort involved in taking basketball to cricket-smitten fans as a “challenge”. It will take a lot of effort, she told Mint by telephone from Singapore.
Still, efforts have continued. In December, NBA talent scouts watched the senior national state championship in Jaipur and selected three hoopsters from Delhi and Punjab for this year’s Basketball Without Borders’ Asian camp in Shanghai. The trio—Sunil Kumar, 16, Shrawan Kumar, 19, and Dilawar Singh, 19—will leave on 3 July for the three-day programme.
Yet, while sports marketing companies at home and overseas are keenly watching the developments, the players say they are making back-up plans, too. Singh, a student in Ludhiana, is preparing for college admissions having passed his senior school board examinations. “There is no future playing basketball in India,” he said in a telephone interview from Bengaluru, where he is currently attending the seniors’ training camp.
“It is because of this I have to enter college.