In this edition of NBA India All-Access, we are honored to have 3BL Commissioner Rohit Bakshi with us.
Bakshi is an Indian entrepreneur, who was instrumental in taking Indian players to Japan with the help of FIBA certified agents in Japan a few years back.
Indian players like Amjyot Singh, Amritpal Singh were the first Indian players to travel to Japan with this programme, and become integral members of their team "Tokyo Excellence", who wound up winning the league title that season. The success of that programme prompted Japanese schools and colleges to approach Rohit to scout for more Indian talent.
The next talent through this pipeline was Anmolpreet Kaur, who went to Japan at the age of 15. Her accelerated growth in Japan meant she received a national team call-up for the FIBA Asia Women's Cup in 2017.
With the 3BL, Bakshi aims to establish a league that would bring international basketball competition to India and pave the path for players to make a professional career for themselves in basketball.
That being said, let's get right to Rohit Bakshi's interview with NBA.com/India:
Yash Matange: First of all, congratulations on Season 1 of the 3BL and also becoming a father to triplets.
Rohit Bakshi: Thank you.
Matange: I'll get right to the questions. Could you elaborate on what the fan response was like all through Season 1 of the 3BL and even during the World Tour Masters in Hyderabad?
Bakshi: The response in all six cities and for the World Tour Masters was very unique. Some cities it was fabulous while in some cities they weren't sure what was going on.
We tipped off season 1 in Delhi, which was the home town, so a lot of people knew about the league and we got a lot of basketball fans who came to watch the league. Aizwal, which is a very sporty place, had a lot of people turning out for us despite it being during the time of the FIFA World Cup. They knew the sport and didn't shy away from showing their love for it, giving us one of the loudest cheers across all seven cities.
After Aizwal, the biggest fan turnout was in Chennai for Round 4. We conducted the tournament in a mall with the idea of bringing the sport to the people to attract non-basketball fans to the sport and the response was remarkable. The kids were enjoying it and the parents were pleasantly surprised by the concept of a league being conducted in a mall.
So, for season 1, based on what we wanted, we actually accomplished everything.
Matange: From an operational standpoint, what aspects do you believe you can do better in season 2?
Bakshi: It has to be the on-ground planning and preparation for the league at the venue. In season 1, we began prep in our space at the malls only on the second half of Friday [tournament would be conducted over Saturday & Sunday]. That's an area, I recognized, we needed more time. So, in season 2, we would need to probably begin on Thursday to get two days of preparation.
Among the other things, camera work and photography was another place we can get better. All through the season, I realized, which is something FIBA 3X3 struggles with, is that because 3x3 is such a fast-paced game, we are not able to capture the right moment of a dunk, a block or any other highlight play.
Content is obviously the heart and soul of the 3x3BL, so that's something we absolutely need to focus on.
Matange: Could you speak a little about your 3BL Juniors initiative that you began in Gurgaon in December?
Bakshi: The motive behind that was to create more awareness, about the game and it's format, among the youth of this country. Within the 3BL Juniors, we created three categories (U-11, U-13, and U-15) and conducted this Juniors programme in the same way that we conducted any round in season 1 (games on Saturday and Sunday with 12 teams) of our professional league
We wanted to give the kids an idea of what everything would look like if they wished to become a professional player in the future.
Matange: Could you give the NBA.com readers some insight into your journey from being a 3x3 professional basketball player yourself to now the commissioner of 3BL in India?
Bakshi: I started as a professional 3x3 player in 2016 and the idea was to prove to the world that four Punjabi brothers could form a team and be No. 1 in the world. In Japan, we (team name - Agleymina.EXE) accomplished what we wanted by winning the league (Premier EXE. League in Japan) in 2016 which promoted us to the World Tour Masters (they were named after the city they represented - Hamamatsu) and we eventually finished as runners-up in the World Tour Finals.
That was a wake-up call for FIBA. They got in touch with us and subsequently granted us the rights to begin a 3x3 professional league in the Indian sub-continent.
Once we had the rights, we began planning the league for India in 2017. In September of that year, we had a showcase event in Gurgaon called Road to Mexico where we had teams from neighboring countries like Malaysia, Sri Lanka Indonesia and Japan (2). The rest of them were national teams like the Ludhiana Academy joint (Amjyot Singh and Satnam Singh were part of this team), ONJC, Air Force joint and many more.
This was a showcase event to not tell India but the rest of the world that is what we are going to be doing in 2018. In 2018, we began 3BL season 1 in June and the entire journey was about putting India on the map of FIBA 3x3 basketball
Matange: You have had a long association with Amjyot Singh. He played in the Road to Mexico event, he was your teammate in the Hamamatsu team, and I believe you know him personally as well. What do you think of his achievements, as he currently plays for the OKC Blue in the G-League?
Bakshi: I have known Amjyot since 2015. The biggest difference I see in him now is his body structure. He has always been a good passer but now his shooting is just remarkable and he is also a lot more athletic. I have never seen him shoot the ball that well.
.@gill_amjyot is winning basketball fans' hearts as a member of the @okcblue! pic.twitter.com/vhdFZzs2XD- NBAIndia (@NBAIndia) December 13, 2018
I'm excited to see him in season 2 of the 3BL. He will bring a lot of value to the league and to whichever team he joins. Last year, the Delhi Hoopers dominated the league and with Amjyot joining another team, I don't think that would be the case.
Amjyot and I go way back. We've known each other since he came to Japan to play professional basketball for "Tokyo Excellence". We stay in touch and speak almost every second or third day. He's not just a player but he's been associated with us for much longer. We have a family relation as well.
Matange: That was some great insight Rohit. The last question about 3BL, is there anything you could tell us about season 2 - the schedule or the possibility of more teams?
Bakshi: So, as of now, we are sticking to 12 teams. There is a lot of interest to increase to 20 but for now, we are sticking with 12.
The schedule will be from July 2019. Last year, we had begun in June but this year, with the country's general elections and the Cricket World Cup, we plan to begin in July and finish in November.
Matange. Great. We have some quick NBA questions to cap-off this interview. What was your reaction to the announcement of the NBA India Games 2019?
Bakshi: I was very excited. Even though I'm the 3BL Commissioner, I have always been an NBA fan. This will create a lot of buzz for the basketball society in India and with the event being in Mumbai, it will rope in a lot of celebrities which will only add to the festivities.
Matange: Right. Who would be your 2018-19 MVP be?
Bakshi: I really think it could be one of the Golden State Warriors among Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, although I really want LeBron James to get one. I'm a huge fan of the King, so I hope he gets it this year.
Matange: And your 2019 NBA Finalists?
Bakshi: From the East, I think the Boston Celtics will come out and the Warriors will come out of the West. The Houston Rockets look good too, so it could be the Rockets or the Warriors.