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NBA Finals

NBA Finals 2019: Punjabi broadcasters Parminder Singh and Preet Randhawa ready to help basketball change lives in India

#NBA Punjabi
Canadians Preet Randhawa (left) Parminder Singh (right) became the first to broadcast an NBA Finals game in Punjabi [NBA Punjabi/Instagram]

Parminder Singh and Preet Randhawa are living the ultimate dream - they get paid to watch their favourite sport.

Singh and Randhawa are the voices of the NBA Finals in Punjabi. A first for the league that will broadcast its championship series to 200 different countries in over 50 different languages.

Growing up in Canada, Singh and Randhawa could never have imagined this would be their lives. The smiles on their faces might have to be to surgically removed as they recounted the moment the league called them to tell them the good news.

"It was amazing," Randhawa told NBA.com. "Being basketball fans just growing up...and we grew up through the (Michael) Jordan era, the Magic Johnson years, Larry Bird and so forth - so you could just imagine as being Canadians we didn't even have a basketball team back then.

"Nowadays you can try and figure out how to catch a game that's not being played in your area but with us, it was such a difficult time to keep on top (of the league). So the minute or seconds of highlights that used to appear on Canadian television is how we used to get our dose of basketball.

"So we went through all that to where we finally had a team and to then get this call from the NBA it was like a dream come true. We were just talking...we're like pinching ourselves 'like is this for real'?

"When we went to Oracle Arena - just walking down the same path as the players come out. Being (in Toronto) at the Scotiabank Arena and the atmosphere.

"I think one thing that the NBA does so beautifully is that global outreach and we're so glad to be a part of that."

It's no secret that the NBA has made vast efforts in trying to bring the game of basketball to the masses. And while basketball is a universal language the league has continued to find ways to broadcast games in the native tongues of many across the world.

As you would expect, Singh and Randhawa take their roles seriously. They're in a unique position speaking to a large community with a wide range of basketball IQ. There are fans who have watched the game for years and understand it at a very high level and there are fans who may be tuning in for the first time just because they can now listen to a game in a comfortable dialogue.

"This was amazing because it's a game we love," Randhawa said of calling the Finals. "To be able to bring the game that we love and have a love for, to those who probably never watched it before and probably never would - just because ... they come from India where the primary sport is field hockey or you're looking at cricket.

"So is there any correlation? No, but because of (our play-by-play) - you know we got a few emails from people. Americans and Canadians and they said to us that 'you know we can join in in conversations now with co-workers at work because we watched that game in our mother tongue and now we understand it'.

"So I think a lot had to do with educating individuals about the game as well. So our broadcasts we notice we do two things. One is, of course, the commentary - play-by-play - but also educating people about the game.

"The rules and what things are taking place, which is a little bit different. And still, try to bring the angle of all the different defensive shifts that Nick Nurse is bringing in. We've got an audience who have been watching the game for a while we don't want to get them bored either."

While they've received feedback from many American and Canadian viewers, most of their viewership will come from Indian and South East Asia.

The NBA has long made India a priority in not only engaging fans but helping put some infrastructure in place to service the youth who want to play the game and develop at a high level.

Singh and Randhawa are huge proponents of the growth of the game in India and they expect there to be more NBA prospects in the future.

"Even when you go to India you go to a small little village, they have a basketball court and there are little kids playing there," Singh told NBA.com. "Now that we get the opportunity to take the game to them in their own language I think it's encouraging.

"I think in the future we're going to see basketball players - I know we had Santam Singh, Sim Bhullar and a couple of others coming in but I think we're going to have a lot more growing up just because we can bring the game to them."

And bringing the game to India is exactly what the league is doing. In October, the Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers will play not one but two exhibition games at the NSCI Dome in Mumbai. It will be the first time the NBA has played in India and the first games staged in the country by a North American sports league.

"This is what we need," Randhawa said with a smile. "We were talking about (games in India) when we had a chance to meet Vivek Ranadive with the Sacramento Kings - and this was in 2016 when the All-Star game happened in Toronto.

"We were talking about ways we can connect to the community, because he's got a huge Punjabi fan following, they do a Sikh night - a Punjabi night at the arena which is similar to our Superfan (Nav Bhatia) here who's helped us break down barriers and gave us an opportunity to be here.

"Because people would look at us differently because we look different. So I think by that just mere fact that the NBA is going to have some games played in India...we certainly hope we're on that same plane calling those games in Punjabi but I think it will be amazing.

"That would be the ice breaker. I think when you see - and one thing I think you'll realize is that Indians are so welcoming and they want to welcome you with open arms and the fact that the NBA is going to them, I think they will embrace the NBA.

"And sorry to say but cricket fans out there, I think we're going to give you a run for your money."

Singh and Randhawa are confident that there's room for basketball in India's sports lexicon. They've seen a similar explosion in popularity in the game they love in Canada where ice hockey rules supreme.

With that explosion in popularity came more NBA players from Canada. The duo both agree that the two preseason games in Mumbai will only open the door for more Indians in the world's best basketball league.

And one day they hope to see a turban player break barriers just as they have.

"Once we get into these kinds of countries that have so much raw talent but lack resources we will be changing lives," Randhawa continued.

"I think this is where the impact of the NBA will be felt.

"We talk about this opportunity we got now but we also look at how can we give back, because that was very important to us that one day we want to see a turban player in the NBA on the court because the NBA believes so much in diversity and not discriminating against anyone.

"It's all about what you can bring to the table and that's why we love this league so much and we think that it can do wonders in India."

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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