According to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA plans to launch a 12-team professional league in India following the footsteps of the Basketball Africa League. The NBA played its first overseas game in Tel Aviv, way back in 1978 and has continued to play pre-season games abroad since 1991.
Ahead of its first-ever pre-season fixture between Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings at the NSCA Dome in Mumbai on Friday, NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, has had talks with Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive about the formation of a 12-team league in India. He said they are in ‘serious consideration’ to launch a league in India, following the footsteps of Basketball Africa League which begins in March, next year.
“One of the things we have been discussing recently -- and I know this is something else my friend Vivek is pushing me on -- is the ability to launch a league here in India,” Silver told Sportstar.
“We have wonderful partners in the Reliance Foundation, with Sony Ten, our broadcaster, and some of our other top-notch corporate relationships here. That is something we are openly having discussions on,” the NBA commissioner added.
However, for the league to happen, SIlver feels there is an immediate need for proper infrastructure and more basketball arenas in the country.
“I have had some interesting discussions with developers over the last two days here. I think it's inevitable that there will be state-of-the-art arenas in major cities in India, in part because these are multi-use facilities and live entertainment is increasingly important here as well. Of course, a great arena can have concerts and other shows. But we do need to see those arenas over time in order to play more games,” Silver said.
When the NBA came to India a few years ago, it took baby steps to make a name for itself in the Indian market. And within five years, it has achieved the task of bringing in two top teams for pre-season friendlies. Silver sees it as a big achievement and praises the “explosion of 5G” technology which has allowed young fans to connect with the game and turn up at the arena in huge numbers.
The NBA played its first overseas game in Tel Aviv, way back in 1978 and has continued to play pre-season games abroad since 1991. They have played 200 games in over 20 countries. This year, the league is also conducting games in Japan, China, and Canada.
Even Sacramento Kings owner, Ranadive, who was born and raised in Mumbai, is confident of launching the league soon. “Hopefully, we can launch a league right here in India. I hope in the next 10 years that we'll have at least one player that comes out of the system that plays in the NBA. We already see players. And I fully expect that there will be arenas that spring up across the country where we can play these games,” Ranadive said.
“I have talked to the Prime Minister about arenas and the importance of arenas in smart cities and in cities of the future, and I know he's committed to that,” he added.