When Vivek Ranadivé became the first Indian-American owner in the NBA with his purchase of the Sacramento Kings almost six years ago, he had big plans to help turn around a franchise that hadn't been to the playoffs since 2006 and at the same time, help make basketball a more popular sport in India.
With the Kings in the thick of the playoff race and two preseason games scheduled for Mumbai next October, he's well on his way of turning those plans into reality.
NBA.com India caught up with the Kings' owner during NBA All-Star weekend to talk about a big year for his team, his current community and his native land.
Iyer: Now that you have learned the NBA's India Games are reality and your Kings will be playing the Pacers twice in your hometown of Mumbai in October next preseason, how does it feel?
Ranadivé: "This is a dream come true for me. When I first came into the NBA, Adam Silver promised me one day that we will have a game in India with the Kings, and he's come through on that promise. I'm very grateful to him for that. He came to India with me shortly after he became the Commissioner. It's been a few years, but we put in the work and the NBA has done everything, so I'm greatly appreciative for that."
Iyer: What do you think the reception will be like this event in India?
Ranadivé: "This is going to be huge. It's going to be incredibly exciting to share this incredible game with the country of my birth. Indians, they love to celebrate, they love action. Basketball has a swagger to it - something Abhishek (Bachchan) pointed out to me. The buzz is building. When I bought the team, I knew it was a privilege, an honor and a platform. Obviously, I can't wait until Oct. 4 and 5 when we play the games."
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Iyer: Your team is on the verge of breaking out in a big way with rising stars such as De'Aron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Are you also proud they are playing the game the right way for this NBA era?
Ranadivé: "It's a very exciting team to watch. We recognize fans want to see action, they want to see scoring. They want to see athleticism and the ballet that the sport is. They want that highlighted and showcased. The style of play with the speed and the shooting, the incredible dunks, all of that is on display when you watch the Sacramento Kings. We hope to keep doing more of the same."
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Iyer: If the Kings were able to make the playoffs and play the Warriors in the first round, how much would that rev up the team's Northern California rivalry?
Ranadivé: "That would be huge for us and me personally. I live in the Bay Area and I was Joe Lacob's partner with the Warriors and saw that journey. Never have the Warriors and the Sacramento Kings been competitive teams at the same time. It also would be huge for California and the whole country."
Iyer: Since you have owned the Kings, has it surprised you the level of impact the team had on the community?
Ranadivé: "Something that's been hard to comprehend is just how much you can do with basketball. With Sacramento, it's the fastest-growing city in the state. It's been one of the top destinations for millennials in the country. The transformation that the city and the area has experienced through basketball has been truly amazing."
Iyer: In your journey to help getting this team to where it is now, what do you feel has been your best role?
Ranadivé: "One of the first things you discover when you buy a team is that you actually don't own the team. The team belongs to fans, the community, the city. You're just a steward. We have amazing fans in the city of Sacramento, the best fans in the world. They're passionate and engaged. They celebrate our success. To have a team on a track where fans are going to see some good games, progress and a great product on the court, it's awesome."
#NBAAllStar Weekend is a wrap ✌️- Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) February 18, 2019
The Kings best moments in slow motion 🎥⤵️ pic.twitter.com/AeU5UXGVUU
Iyer: What are your expectations for the Kings the rest of this season after all the positives of the first half?
Ranadivé: "We're in the playoff hunt right now and that's something we haven't been able to say for quite some time. The fans deserve that. Every game is really exciting. You really have to watch until the end of the game, because there were games we though we weren't in it, and then Buddy hits a 3-point shot at the buzzer and we win. It's pure joy and excitement. The rest of the season, just plan on watching the Kings, because they're the most exciting show in town."