The NBA in India: from building a fanbase to major grassroots investment

NBA's vigorous expansion in India sets the standard high for other sports!

During the past decade the NBA has invested vigorously in India ( NBA India), with the aim of producing players who would go on to represent India in NBA.

Satnam Singh, drafted by Dallas Mavericks, is the sole representative of India at NBA currently. NBA India has taken a ground-up approach where their focus has been on the grassroot project under which they have organized more than 1,500 grassroots events in 30 cities around the country since 2008. The Drum recently spoke to NBA India managing director Yannick Colaco who enlightened us about NBA's marketing plans in India

To add to their achievement, The NBA India launched NBA Academy in the country this week, which builds on the NBA’s existing basketball and youth development initiatives in India.

This initiative has surpassed any investment made by any sports organisation as NBA Academy India said it employs a holistic, 360-degree approach to player development with focuses on education, leadership, character development and life skills.

As part of the program, the students will compete against top competition throughout the year and will have an opportunity to be selected for travel teams that play in international tournaments and exhibition games. The initiative exposes elite prospects to NBA-level coaching, facilities and competition and provides a global framework for elite prospects to maximize their success.

The Drum spoke to NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, who said he believed that India has a great potential and, in the future, it is possible for one of the kids from the newly launched NBA Academy to play for the NBA teams in US.

He said: “The opening of our first academy in India is an important milestone in the NBA’s efforts to grow basketball in India and demonstrates our commitment to developing talent and shaping the game’s future here. These 21 young athletes, and those who will attend this academy in the years to come, will receive world-class coaching and training to help them fulfill their potential, on and off the court.”

Tatum made it clear that this initiative is not about finding more sponsors or marketing partners. It's about developing elite basketball prospects. However, he further added that they are open to pitches from companies which are endemic to basketball but not dependent on them.

He also said, "Since NBA teams don't have the right to invest on their own in India, we took the initiative to set up academies in big markets like India, China, and Africa."

Prashanti Singh, member of the Indian Basketball team and former most valuable player (MVP) of NBA India national finals, said: "NBA is one of the most successful commercial league of a globally popular sport. Their presence in India is good in terms of getting a system and learning opportunity to Indian Basketball which is not only a team sport like cricket (Asia dominated) but also a Olympic sport."

The Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program has already reached more than six million youth and trained more than 5,000 physical education instructors nationwide since its launch in 2013.

In April, the NBA launched NBA Basketball School, a network of tuition-based basketball development programs around the world open to international male and female players ages six to18. The first NBA Basketball School was launched in Mumbai, India as part of a multiyear agreement with India On Track (IOT) and additional NBA Basketball Schools, will be launched in India and around the world in the coming months.

Himanshu Dabir, chief/director of basketball operations at the Basketball Federation of India, too approves of NBA's presence in India. He said,"The NBA’s venture into India is a great boon for the Indian basketball scene. They’ve already shown results in terms of growth of the NBA consumers in India, as the TV numbers have continuously grown over the past three to four years. They've recently introduced new initiatives such as the NBA Elite Academy and the NBA Schools. After their first few years of focusing on growing a consumer base and introducing basketball to the masses in India, they’ve shifted their focus to talent development with their new programs. With all these programs in place and the structure they created, I only see the NBA getting more and more successful in the Indian market. "

NBA's venture into the Indian realm comes across as an excellent and intelligent plan where they are trying to integrate basketball culturally. They further plan to scout women players in India and train them in the academy. They have hired three experienced coaches from US to train the prospects at the academy. Now all fans can do is hope to see another Indian at the NBA.

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