New Delhi: Basketball continues to grow in India with each passing day, thanks mainly to the establishment of the NBA academy in the Greater Noida, as well as the presence of the league's basketball schools in cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi and Pune.
Among the NBA's latest endeavours in India happens to be the Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Asia Camp that got flagged off on Wednesday at the NBA Academy, with several noted players from various teams turning up at the camp that saw the participation of 66 selected boys and girls from across the Asia Pacific.
The league's initiatives in India have started to bear fruit already, if the opinion of some of the visiting NBA players is to be taken into consideration. The key takeaway would be the fact that young Indian basketball players are starting to get better at the sport, and that the game is starting to get a lot more acceptance in the cricket-mad nation, if Oklahoma City Thunder player Corey Brewer is to be believed.
"I just feel they’ve got some talent. Kids are starting to get better. You can tell they’re starting to love the game around in here.
"Soccer’s the number one sport (sic), so we’re trying to get them to play basketball," said Brewer, who added that he came up with an instant "Yes!" when offered a trip to India.
There are few sports in the country that enjoy the fanfare and financial clout as cricket does, the indicators of which would be the salaries and endorsements that the cricketers earn, as well as the success of the Indian Premier League (IPL). When asked about the drawbacks that hinder the growth of the sport in India, Brewer pointed towards the trend of youngsters picking up the game a little late, especially when compared to the basketball culture among American kids.
"Just start playing earlier. Younger age groups. A lot of (Indian) kids don’t start playing till they’re 14-15, so they’re behind. They have to work a lot harder, and they’re still behind, because kids in America start playing at an early age.
"So I felt over here, once kids start playing at an earlier age, kids are going to be better," said the Thunder shooting guard, adding that the inclusion of another player from the country in the main league would be NBA's next goal as far as India are concerned.
Would there ever be something as big as an NBA exhibition game in the country though, one featuring some of the biggest names from the two conferences? Brewer didn't entirely rule the idea out.
"That’ll be cool! You never know, the way the NBA’s going, the way it’s growing, and it’s going global. India is definitely a destination there, where NBA is concentrating on. So, it could happen."
NBA first made its entry into India by setting up a basketball school in Mumbai in March, 2017, which was followed by the establishment of the Academy two months later in the National Capital Region (NCR).
Like many sporting leagues around the world, the NBA too is keen on going after untapped resources in countries such as India, China, Brazil, among others, in a bid to make the league truly global.
"Africa. Brazil. China, for sure. There’s a lot of places. NBA’s just trying to go global. They’re trying to hit everything, so this is good," said Brewer.
Before starting off with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2007, and going on to represent teams such as the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers, Brewer sharpened his skills in college sport, representing the Florida Gators (University of Florida).
In a country that finds itself at the top of the Summer Olympics medal table more often than not, college sport plays a central role in shaping future sports stars and enjoys a massive following among its masses, with a number of team as well as individual sports falling under the aegis of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
"It’s very important just because you get better, you develop (and) you got to learn the game, 'cause once you get to the NBA, you’re thrown out there, and you should know a lot of stuff. So when you go to college, they teach you. So when you get to the NBA, you can pick everything up faster," added Brewer.
Brewer joined Oklahoma from LA Lakers in March earlier this year, appearing in a total of 18 games for his new side (including 16 starts). While Oklahoma clinched the fourth seed in the regular season, they went down to Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs.
"We got some good players. We got Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, lot of good guys. Andre Roberson got hurt, and it kind of really hurt us, but we had a good run. It’s tough getting beaten by Utah in the playoffs. But, this summer I face a big summer," added the veteran of more than 700 games.
Like Brook Lopez and Kevin Durant before him, Brewer's itinerary included a trip to the Taj Mahal among others. From the looks of it, the 32-year-old seems to have taken a liking to the people and the food here.
"It’s been really good with the Taj Mahal the other day. Just learning about it — why it was built and how it was built. That was great. Pretty good food, sure. Spicy, I like spice. And everybody’s been real nice. So it’s been good. Good trip."
The other active players who will be attending the BWB Asia 2018 event are Caris LeVert (Brooklyn Nets), Kelly Olynyk (Miami Heat), Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks) from the NBA as well as two-time champion Ruth Riley (San Antonio Silver Stars) and Ebony Hoffman (Indiana Fever) from the WNBA. Also attending the event are Indian players Satnam Singh and Amjyot Singh, the former being the first Indian to get drafted into the main league when he got picked by the Dallas Mavericks.
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Updated Date: May 31, 2018 12:51:57 IST