basketball diaries

We want basketball to be the clear number two sport in India: NBA India’s managing director

Yannick Colaco is upbeat that NBA’s new elite training centre in the NCR region will do wonders for the growth of basketball in the country.

If you have played pick-up basketball, you would know that there is no such nightmare quite like the odd number. Six players on court divides into a neat, healthy, 3-on-3. Add the seventh, and suddenly, one team is shooting against the 4-on-3 odds. The team with the shorter end of the stick is always chasing that extra open player. They are always double-teamed on offense. They have conceded a lead even before the ball gets checked.

A conversation on sports in India usually begins, ends, and is full of cricket. The sport dominates India’s sporting economy, infrastructure, attention, and success. Every other sport competes for the second spot, and the growth of football, tennis, hockey, kabaddi, badminton, boxing and more are out, clamouring for cricket’s remains, solidifying a space for themselves in the cracks in between. In an economy based on the attentions of over a billion human beings, every small percentage is still a conversation of millions. Basketball in India, however – a sport usually outside the mainstream of Indian consciousness – has gotten in the habit of conceding an early lead, of being the odd one out.

Small but significant steps

But for every concession, for every drawback, there has been a story of underdog triumph, of defeating the very odds that have kept the game down. In the same year that basketball’s governing body in India – the Basketball Federation of India – broke apart to political turmoil, the Indian national team defeated Asia’s finest squad China in their second-such historic upset.

Play

Just last week, Netflix released a documentary on Satnam Singh, a seven-foot giant born to a farmer in a village deep in the heart of Punjab, who punched far above his weight (and seven-foot height) to make history and be drafted into the United States’ National Basketball Association, the world’s finest and richest basketball league.

Now, the same NBA is quickening the pace of its efforts in India with hopes that they, too, can overcome the odds and elevate basketball up above all other contenders to cricket.

“We want basketball to become a clear number two sport to cricket in India,” said Yannick Colaco, the managing director of NBA India, over a phone interview from Mumbai. “Our primary goal is to raise the level of talent of basketball in India.”

The NBA Academy

Basketball is usually cited as the second-most popular sport worldwide (behind football), and ever since they opened their Mumbai office in 2011, the NBA has been hoping to combine the game’s international popularity with the potential in India to reach what is the world’s largest untapped market. Last month, the NBA unveiled its most-lucrative project yet: the NBA Academy India, an elite basketball training centre for the top prospects in the country.

Set to open in April 2017 in the Delhi-National Capital Region region, the academy will be fully-funded by the NBA and will provide 24 young prospects (ages 13-17) high-level training by NBA-affiliated coaches.

The players for the academy will be chosen in a nationwide talent hunt programme – ACG-NBA Jump – over the next few months.

“The talent hunt is focused on finding those twenty-four prospects for the academy,” said Colaco. “These players will get fully-funded scholarships. The critical part for us is education; along with coaching and player development, the prospects will be provided academic and personal development, too. One can’t be without the other. We will have academic scholarship: the idea will be to find a school of a certain level and in a reasonable vicinity of academy for our students.”

This will be the fifth such elite training centre globally. So far, the NBA has similar academies in Hangzhou, Jinan and Urumqi in China and one in Australia.

Colaco added that NBA scouts, including NBA India Operations’ Associate VP Carlos Barroca, will be looking primarily for players with a high-level of talent and potential at a young age for this academy. But another important character trait in their search will be their desire for success. “Desire is something important wherever you play competitive sport: how much you want to be successful. When we had our ACG NBA Jump try-out in Mumbai last week, we saw this desire; there were over four hundred kids with their parents, many of whom had queued up from six in the morning for hours, to get their shot at the try-out.”

Over the next month, similar tryouts will be held in Chennai, Delhi, Ludhiana, Kochi, and Kolkata. In the next phase of the ACG NBA Jump programme, a three-day national camp will be held and culminate with the selection of the top 24 talents for the Academy.

“When it comes to the level of training in team development, conditioning, competition, in India, a lot is still left to be desired,” said Colaco. “This is where we think we can immediately plug that gap. We are making a big investment, and we think that our investment will immediately help in improving the standard of India’s national teams at all age level.”

Aiming for the grassroots

Indian basketball is still lagging behind at the international stage. Despite being the world’s second-largest population, FIBA – the international basketball federation – ranks India 53rd and 40th in the men’s and women’s divisions respectively worldwide. But India is starting to show some improvement: they have beaten Asia’s highest-ranked team China twice in the last three years, made it to the quarter-finals of Asia’s top basketball tournament – FIBA Asia Basketball Championship – last year, and feature individual players like Palpreet Singh, Amjyot Singh, Amrit Pal Singh, in addition to Satnam Singh, who have made a mark professionally overseas.

Colaco hoped that the NBA’s involvement will help improve the national team’s progress and add to the international and domestic exposure for India’s top players.

“We think that competitions are critical for growth of players in the Academy,” said Colaco, “We will be working closely within the national system to ensure that these kids are constantly playing in competitions and work with the BFI and state associations to increase the competitive events in India.We hope to take our players abroad for international exposure, too.”

While the Academy will deal with players at the elite level, the NBA has been holding a grassroots level programme for several years along with Reliance to make basketball an important part of the lifestyle and sporting habits for young Indian kids. This year, the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme will open in 19 Indian cities and reach around 35 lakh children.

“We believe that we continue doing the right thing both for grassroots and elite level, there will be a steady stream of high quality basketball players from India,” said Colaco, “Where they take their career from that point will depend eventually on how good they are and how hard they work.”

“Everything we do in India is towards the goal of growing our fanbase and pushing basketball to the number two spot.”

With so many other contenders in the game, basketball’s place as India’s top substitute to cricket is a longshot. But with the support of the NBA and a nation brimming with potential future stars, Indian basketball has the promise to shoot past the odds.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

1. Billions

There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.

Watch Billions Now

2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

Watch Westworld Now

3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

Watch Big Little Lies Now

4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

Watch The Night Of Now

5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

Watch American Horror Story Now

6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

Watch Empire Now

7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

Watch Modern Family Now

8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

Watch The Deuce Now

9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

Available starting October

10. Rome

If you’re still craving an epic drama with extensive settings and a grandiose plot and sub-plots, Rome, co-produced by HBO and BBC, is where your search stops. Rome is a historical drama that takes you through an overwhelming journey of Ancient Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire. And when it comes to tastes, this series provides the similar full-bodied flavour that you’ve grown to love about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to take away for those who grew up quoting Julius Caesar, and for those looking for a realistic depiction of the legendary gladiators. If you’re a history buff, give this Emmy-winning show a try.

Watch Rome Now

For your next obsession, Hotstar Premium has you covered with its wide collection of the most watched shows in the world. Apart from the ones we’ve recommended, Indian viewers can now easily watch other universally loved shows such as Silicon Valley and Prison Break, and movies including all titles from the Marvel and Disney universe. So take control of your life again post the Game of Thrones gloom and sign up for the Hotstar Premium membership here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.