~~ Jessica Passah
India has always been one sided when it comes to sports. For many years, a large portion of the country has put its focus on cricket however, slowly but surely the tide seems to be turning.
In the last few years, we have seen the boom of football mainly due to the Indian Super League. Indian football players are receiving much needed attention and it’s not just the big names that are garnering this attention, grassroots development has been a big topic of late with plans in motion to ensure that young players get the best opportunities.
This being said, there is another sport which has been looming around the country for a while now which is also growing in popularity. Basketball is a sport that almost everyone loves. Even if there is not a huge following of the game, people are naturally attracted it.
Just the prospect of putting the ball in the basket is enticing to everyone. The United Basketball Alliance is India’s first Pro Basketball League which concluded its 4th season a few months ago. With every season, it is obvious how the quality of Indian Basketball is improving and with many players from abroad also opting to come play in India, we can see the popularity of the league increasing.
A recent documentary on Indian born basketball player Satnam Singh was released called “One in a Billion-Satnam Singh.” Singh, a 21 year old 7”2 native of Punjab is the first Indian born player to be drafted into the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks.
He is however yet to play an NBA game and currently plays in the D League with the Texas Legends. There, region around Punjab has always had a good number of basketball players come out of it, although not on the same level as Satnam but in the documentary we see how if he had been given the right training from an earlier age instead of his late teens, he could have developed into a better player.
The NBA now sees the potential India has and have just launched its first NBA Academy in New Delhi. With world class training and development, it will not be surprising to see a top class player emerge from the country.
The Northeast also has a good following of the game with Mizoram having its very own league. The Mizoram Super League (MSL) is one of the biggest leagues in the country and many UBA players are also taking an interest in the league.
The potential in the state is huge for basketball and although there hasn’t been a player from the state to play in the UBA, MSL founder Tato Tlaunga is optimistic that this will eventually happen. Other states such as Meghalaya are also seeing a surge in basketball academies with sports organizations such as Touchline NE and Tyllilang Basketball Academy putting focus on the sport’s development. With many youngsters naturally gifted with sporting abilities, it will be interesting to see how far the sport can grow in the state.
NBA star Kevin Durant visiting the NBA Academy in Delhi is huge for the country as it shows the level of seriousness they have in India. The investment they have put in is a substantial amount and they will obviously hope to reap the benefits.
With basketball players as young as 12 and 13 hoping to enter the academy, the quality of Indian players will only improve and with the right tools and development, maybe someday we will have our very own Kevin Durant!
(The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)