Former NBA star Bruce Bowen believes that due to the sport’s growing fan base in India, the country has become a priority for National Basketball Association (NBA).
“The popularity of basketball is growing rapidly here. More and more children are picking up the game. Due to this increasing popularity, NBA is now focusing on India as it has a fan base that can grow,” said the 43-year-old, who was a member of the San Antonio Spurs teams that won NBA Championships in 2003, 2005 and 2007, during a media interaction at Panjab University on Tuesday.
Bowen is on a weeklong visit to India to conduct basketball clinics for players and coaches, apart from a promotional tour, as part of NBA Jam and Junior NBA programme. Chandigarh was Bowen’s third stop, after Kolkata and Gurgaon, and his next and final destination will be Ludhiana.
On his experience in India and the response he received, Bowen said, “This is my first visit to India and I have many good stories to take back home. People are warm and want to experience the part of the culture. There is also a lot enthusiasm for basketball among youngsters, and we also want to put imprint on kids.
In that, we are not competing with cricket or football, but trying to provide children with an option that gives them great opportunities,” said Bowen, adding that there was a need to increase the saturation level visà-vis basketball to strengthen its foothold in India.
“To get more and more youngsters involved in the sport it’s important to increase the saturation level by holding tournaments frequently at the grassroots level, besides building quality infrastructure. If there is a sustained development programme for the kids, there will be more players of Indian descent like Sim Bhullar to find a contract with an NBA team,” added Bowen, who was selected to the NBA All-Defensive First and Second teams eight times during his career.
Earlier in the day, he conducted clinics for aspiring players at PU, and also watched three-on-three games being organised under NBA Jam.
Over 150 teams from in and around the city participated in the event. One of these teams, along with one each from 15 other cities, will compete in the national finals to be played in Pune next month.
The winner of the national leg will get to compete in International Basketball Federation’s (FIBA) Asian Championship. The Asian winner will qualify for FIBA World Championship.