The love of basketball is spreading faster and faster in India nowadays. There’s NBA India, the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), and the Indian senior team winning the SABA Championship in 2014. Basketball is trending more so in India now than it has ever before. With NBA exhibition games moving to the Indian market within the next season or two, basketball will become the No. 1 watched sport in India.
“In India, there’s a billion people,” Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive said. “When they have a cricket match, there’s 600 million people watching. If we got a small fraction of that, that would still be a very big number.”
The goal for Ranadive and the Kings is to play a preseason game in India this October. The biggest challenge, however, is to secure an arena that has the necessary resources to host such a large event. “We have to find the right facility,” Ranadive said in the interview with NBA.com. “Right now they don’t have one. The NBA is very, very supportive about building the brand in India.”
Most importantly, the expansion of NBA games to India would help turn mere semi-professionals in the country into true professional athletes. The NBA can ultimately serve as a model for the professional league the BFI one day wants to implement within the country’s borders. Just as the Indian Premier League (cricket) modeled itself after the English Premier League (football), India’s future basketball league will do the same with the NBA.
Similarly to the EPL, IPL franchises were established in an effort to become global icons just as EPL’s top teams have become. With basketball, the goal will be to have each region of India well represented, similar to what the Elite Football League of India (EFLI) is doing.
Who knows? Maybe a Reliance-sponsored Indian basketball player will be the next LeBron James with his own mobile app and international brand. It could even be Satnam Singh Bhamara or Sim Bhullar.