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NBA India Games 2019

NBA India Games 2019: Basketball Experts Roundtable Part 2

Ask the Experts - Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers
(Illustration)

The Sacramento Kings and the Indiana Pacers will become the first professional teams from a North American sports league to participate in a game on India soil when they face-off in two exhibition games at the NSCI Dome in Mumbai on the 4th and 5th of October.

As we inch closer to those famous dates, we discuss the biggest questions in part 2 of this two-part roundtable with a few notable NBA experts and fans:

For Part 1 of this roundtable about the NBA India Games, click here.

NBA.com: NBA's biggest leap in India before India Games?

Karan Madhok (NBA Experts & Contributor): Kevin Durant coming to India right after winning a title was a massive leap - he's the most talented player to ever step foot on Indian soil. But how about India's own leap towards the NBA: Satnam Singh becoming the first Indian to be drafted into the league in 2015.

Akshay Manwani (NBA Expert & Hindi Commentator): All of these were big moments, particularly, the opening of the NBA Academy. By setting up only the fifth academy (at that time) of its kind, the league put its money where its mouth is. But I will go one step back. I really think the league set the ball rolling on India when it decided to open operations in India around 2010-11. Everything has come from there - be it the Reliance Foundation Jr NBA Program, the ACG-NBA Jump program, the regular visits by many current and former NBA stars to India, the enhanced television coverage of the game. Had the league not started operations by coming here, nothing else would have happened.

MORE: Previous offseason visits to India by NBA players

Gopal (NBA Experts & Contributor): NBA Academy no doubt. The Academy is like an escape hatch for India's best young talent. Already there are eight Indians who have received US school/college scholarships/admission directly or indirectly as a result of being seen at NBA Academy's programs. Two other key "leaps": broadcasting two games each morning + NBA League Pass.

Above: Kevin Durant at the NBA Academy India in 2017

Bhushan Suryavanshi (NBA's Most Valuable Fan in India): The ACG - Jump First Tryouts was launched in 2016 to start the first of its kind talent search program. The following year NBA started the NBA Academy India, an Elite Basketball Training Centre at Delhi (NCR). In July 2017, Kevin Durant visited India and it was a spectacle for the young promising Indian basketball players. The countries top prospects at the NBA Academy India. got an opportunity to get coached by the then reigning NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant. So, I think all the above events can be considered the biggest leaps before the NBA India Games 2019.

NBA.com: Most special NBA memory in your life?

KM: I have so many that this question alone is bringing a smile on my face. As a Knicks fan over the past two decades, my NBA peak has been two major stretches: the 1999 playoffs with the 8th seeded Knicks became the first to make the Finals in history; and Linsanity, Jeremy Lin's magical 2012 run that electrified the entire fanbase. A personal dream came true when I watched my first NBA game in person in 2010, and it was the Knicks, of course, at the famous Madison Square Garden.

AM: Hands down the time I stayed awake all night just to ensure that I don't miss watching Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals between the Utah Jazz v Chicago Bulls, which began early morning here in India. Jordan's steal on Malone and game-winner at the end made it absolutely worthwhile.

Gopal: "Jordan past Petrovic" I was probably 16-17 when I saw this clip, and I seriously couldn't believe my eyes. Had to watch it half a dozen times after that. This play changed the meaning of basketball for me forever.

BS: There are many special memories such as meeting NBA Champion Rashard Lewis, talking with NBA Champion Robert Horry and others on NBA's talk shows like Around The Hoop and Saturday Morning Live. However, the most special one was when I was called on "NBA Weekly " a show on the Sony Pictures Network - Sports and was given the title - NBA's Most Valuable Fan in India (MVF).

This was a dream come true moment for me and the most special NBA memory of my life. I have always seen and read about the NBA and its Players showing love for their fans by doing amazing gestures. The hospitality I got from the team when I was called on the show made me feel that NBA Cares for their fans.

NBA.com: Future of Indians in the NBA - coaches or players?

KM: Both, I hope! Satnam was first, Amjyot followed, but no Indian citizen has played in the NBA yet. I hope we are getting closer, and within the next few years, a player will finally break the barrier and become the first. I already know that we're gonna hijack the All-Star vote for him. Also, India has a group of talented young women who have broken the barrier to get basketball scholarships abroad, and it won't surprise me if we get a WNBA player earlier than an NBA one.

MORE: Best moments from Amjyot Singh's 2018-19 G-League season

AM: That is really bright. We already have a few assistant coaches with an Indian connection - Vin Bhavnani (OKC), Roy Rana (Sacramento Kings) - and the players should get there too what with their continued coaching, exposure and patronage under the Basketball Without Borders program, Jr. NBA Global Championships, their development at the NBA India Academy etc. I think we are on the cusp of something big.

Gopal: Players. In fact, to be even more specific: I predict India will have a player in the WNBA before the NBA.

BS: There have been some early success stories of players from India. Satnam Singh was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 2015 NBA Draft as the 52nd overall pick. After Satnam, other players like Palpreet Singh Brar, Amritpal Singh and Amjyot Singh have made an impact in their own way but no Indian has played in the NBA yet. In the case of the women, Indians are getting great opportunities from colleges abroad - Sanjana Ramesh and Vaishnavi Yadav are some of the few names. So, the future of Indians in the NBA and WNBA is looking bright.

NBA.com: Importance of Jr. NBA program in India

KM: It's great in two ways: 1. It gives basketball fundamentals at an early age, which has been a problem for India's elite talents, many of whom start the game too late and lose their opportunity to take the jump to a higher level. The Jr programme gives the young players the foundation, and from there, they can hopefully be ready to take that big leap earlier. 2. Even for players who don't take that leap, the programme creates an army of grassroots NBA/basketball fans, many of whom will grow up loving the game. It was a lonely feeling for me growing up an NBA fan in India when I was that age: for these kids, hopefully, the NBA will be all around them, in their friends-circle, and be a major part of their lives.

Above: The boys squad from India at the 2019 Jr. Global Championship

AM: This cannot be understated. It is really important. A basketball culture is being developed through the Jr. NBA Program. The program is reaching millions of kids and getting them enthused and excited about the sport. This is not just about them learning a new sport, but getting exposed to a new culture and exploring newer opportunities through the game of basketball.

Gopal: Honestly, this is something still waiting to be seen. Compared to the Jr NBA Program, the results already being shown by NBA Academy talent is something that has me really excited. (PS. I know that the Jr NBA Program and NBA Academy aren't meant to be compared since the Jr NBA Program is meant to be more broad-based.)

BS: India is a vast country and there are many hidden talents all across the country. NBA has on-going partnerships with Reliance Foundation since 2013 for Jr. NBA program and trained many young players since then. Talent across our country is been nurtured by the NBA in the Jr. NBA Program.

Along with NBA Academy India, NBA also launched the NBA Basketball school. I have personally visited the NBA Basketball School Programme on June 1, 2019, at a school in Bandra, Mumbai and met Leo Bruno, who is the Regional Technical Head at NBA Basketball Schools India. He had great plans regarding the future of basketball in India and I was highly impressed with his view towards developing young basketball players from the core and working towards turning them into Pro Players.

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

For more updates and stories on the NBA India Games 2019, you can follow NBA.com's page dedicated to the historic event.

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