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Basketball will take off in India soon: Kings’ owner
Sacramento Kings’ Mumbai-born owner Vivek Ranadive believes basketball can become the second-most popular sport in India, a territory where various other games crave for attention.
As the masses consistently back cricket, it is near impossible to displace it from the summit. “In the land of Sachin Tendulkar and Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, it will be hard to replace cricket at the top. But, basketball and India are meant to be together. Indian people always love a spectacle and basketball is one,” said Vivek, who settled in the United States of America.
Vivek left the city when he was 17 to pursue Bachelor’s and Master’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The 61-year-old businessman has now returned to his homeland as Kings is set to cross swords with Indiana Pacers in two NBA pre-season matches at the NSCI Dome here on October 4 and 5. A question on the double duels is enough to bring out the enthusiasm of a child in him.
“I am a Mumbaikar. I am back in the city of my birth. This is where my forefathers lived. These are two real NBA games. The days are going to be two of the most exciting ones of my life,” added Vivek, who bought 65% of the franchise in 2013. The arena will be packed entirely with kids on the night of the opener,with NBA and Reliance Foundation celebrating their six-year association.
The final contest (on October 5) is open to the public and Vivek cheekily calledfor the home faithful to back his side.
“I want each one of them in the stadium to support us (laughs). The Pacers’ owner is a good friend of mine. But hopefully, the loudest cheers are for Sacramento.”
The launch of the NBA India Games 2019 will mark the beginning of a new era in Indian basketball, according to Vivek. “This is the first step in a long journey. I expect the Games to continue in the coming years. I want multiple players from the Indian system to make it to the NBA in the future.”
Nita Ambani to present match ball
Nita Ambani, the Chairperson of Reliance Foundation, will present the ceremonial ‘Match Ball’ to the NBA officials prior to the India Games openeron Friday.
With India hosting its first-ever NBA matches, the handing over of the ball will mark the welcoming of the league to the country. Bollywood stars Priyanka Chopra and Sonam Kapoor and the Bachchan family are expected to be in attendance on the historical night.
NBA India In Numbers
- 1 This is the first time teams from a North American sports league will play in India
- 300 More than 300 NBA live games are available in India each season on Sony Sports Network, the official broadcaster
- 8 Kings and Pacers have eight international players in their roster, representing seven countries and territories
- 2011 The year in which the NBA office in Mumbai was opened. It is one of the 12 NBA offices outside the United States
- 14 Kings and Pacers have played a combined 14 NBA games outside of North America heading into the India Games 2019
- 8000+ The number of miles Kings and Pacers have approximately travelled to reach Mumbai
- 30 The number of active NBA Basketball Schools in six cities across India
- 3000 – As part of the Reliance Foundation’s Education and Sports for All (ESA) initiative, NBA has invited 3000 kids from the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA Schools on October 4
- 200 The NBA India Games will reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories via television, digital and social media