While he may have been confused by average fans for the Isiah Thomas of the Bad Boys Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas made quite the splash this week as he visited India to promote basketball in the country. The trip, in which he is visiting Mumbai and Chennai, was spearheaded by the Kings’ Indian American owner, Vivek Ranadive.
“I am honoured to be representing the Kings and the entire NBA (National basketball Association) in India this off-season and will do whatever I can to help grow the game here by inspiring children,” Thomas said in an official statement.
Since 2006, 31 NBA or WNBA players have visited India with a similar goal in mind. Other NBA stars include Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, and Chris Bosh.
“We are extremely excited to have a member of the Sacramento Kings visit India this summer, and Isaiah’s passion for the game and the community makes him a great ambassador for the sport in India,” Ranadive added.
The efforts to expand the game of basketball and the NBA in general was more so catalyzed by the success the league saw in China. According to Karan Madhok of NBA.com and Hoopistani, Adam Silver made it clear that he will build off of what Stern did in Africa and China and help make India the next big market for the NBA.
“As a first step, I hope that Silver comes through with his suggestions of opening an NBA Academy in India similar to China, and helping grow the game in the grassroots,” Madhok told SB Nation’s Sactown Royalty.
As the NBA continues its efforts to push basketball into India, the role played by Ranadive and the Kings cannot be understated. Seeing professional players in the flesh is of high value to the Indian people – they have seen these players on television, but seeing them in-person creates a whole different type of atmosphere.
The next step will be to have an exhibition game take place in India, a challenge that may take another year to overcome. India does not have the basketball stadiums to host an NBA game, yet. Give it another 6-12 months and India will be fully equipped to take on everything the NBA and basketball have to offer them.