Cleveland, Ohio: In what comes as a reiteration of the importance of India as a market for the NBA, the country could soon host a Global Game. NBA deputy commissioner and COO Mark Tatum revealed this in an interaction with select journalists on the sidelines of the NBA Finals in Cleveland.
The Global Games are part of the NBA's attempts to attract more audiences to the league by having teams play in countries other than USA and Canada. It is a model that is also followed by clubs from some of the top European football leagues. Teams like Manchester United or Real Madrid travel to continents like North America and Asia to play pre-season friendlies before the start of the regular season.
The NBA has sent teams to play abroad as far as back in 1978 when Washington Bullets (now known as Washington Wizards) travelled to Israel and played games against Macabbi Tel Aviv. But in 1993, the league started sending two NBA teams to play pre-season games against each other as opposed to an NBA team facing a local side.
On being asked by Firstpost whether India was in the scheme of things for the Global Games in the distant future, Tatum said, "Very much so. And I'd say it will happen sooner than the distant future. When we think of India, we realise that it will be the world's most populous country in the not-so-distant future. We know it has a huge young population, a huge middle-class demographic, and a huge number of people who speak English."
The NBA Global Games have elicited huge fanfare in countries like China and Japan and now it seems it won't be long before India gets to see two NBA teams facing off from close quarters.
The Philadelphia 76ers and the Dallas Mavericks will play Global Games in Shenzhen and Shanghai in October before next season begins. The NBA used to open their regular season in Japan back in the 90s.
As part of their outreach efforts in India, the league already has the NBA Academy, which opened in 2017, in Greater Noida besides having the Reliance Foundation Junior NBA Program since 2013, which has reached as many as 7.5 million youngsters.
Each season, at least 350 games are broadcast live in India. This season all games were also broadcast in Hindi.
Tatum added, "India for us is such an important market. It's also one of those markets we're looking to get the Games to. We understand that in a country like India, cricket is the No 1, No 2, No 3, No 4 and the No 5 sport. At some point, if we could become No 2, it would be a terrific accomplishment. But we know in order to do that we have to start young. We have to start getting young kids playing.
So we have the NBA Academy in India and we have the Junior NBA program. But part of getting a country excited about something is for them to see the product. I have been to India a couple of times now and have attended cricket (Indian Premier League) games and it's exciting. Even the entertainment there on offer apart from cricket – the cheerleaders and other things – is modelled just like the NBA experience. So I have no doubt that if we bring an authentic NBA experience to India, it will be well received. And all of a sudden I think all the pieces will start coming together. So a Global Game in India is definitely part of the equation."
Tatum, who visited the country for the opening of the NBA Academy last year, admitted that infrastructure was the biggest hindrance in getting the Games to India at the moment.
"One of the challenges is the basketball facilities. There aren't that many basketball facilities which can host an NBA game. So we're just trying to figure out the logistics of where we would play, be it Mumbai or New Delhi. We're looking at different options there, but it's definitely one of those things that we feel we're going to have to do if we're going to get India activated in a different way around the NBA," Tatum said.
While answering questions from foreign media about the Global Games, Tatum outlined the scale of investment it took on the league's part to host the event.
"The difficult part about these Games is that it is difficult to scale. There are only 30 teams in the NBA. We can't send teams every single year. It's a big investment to send teams overseas to play these games. There is an incredible demand for it – everywhere I go, people ask for these Games. It's one of those things we're constantly trying to figure out and trying to spread out."
The writer's trip was sponsored by NBA India
Updated Date: Jun 10, 2018 09:39 AM