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Slam dunk: India, the next frontier in global basketball... Key ingredients to improve basketball talent

PUNE By any measure of popularity in the 21st century, the sport of basketball likely ranks among the top three most popular global sports
By Adi Vase
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 01:05 PM IST

PUNE By any measure of popularity in the 21st century, the sport of basketball likely ranks among the top three most popular global sports.

Followed by an estimated 2.5 billion people, the game has grown by leaps and bounds (pardon the pun), now featuring 107 international players in the NBA, the world’s most competitive basketball league.

A large part of this burgeoning growth of the NBA can be attributed to Yao Ming being drafted with the first overall pick by the Houston Rockets.

With this pick, the NBA instantly became attractive to the Chinese market as Chinese fans flocked to learn the game of basketball at a higher rate than ever before. Currently, it is believed that 300 million basketball players play the sport recreationally or competitively in China.

Being the world’s 2nd largest current population, India is the next country that could see an explosive growth in the popularity and talent level of the sport of basketball.

Indeed, with the NBA currently having one of its seven international basketball academies based in New Delhi, steps are already being taken to contribute to the talent level and growth of basketball in the country. Additionally, the NBA launched the first NBA Basketball School in Mumbai in April 2017, to further educate players, parents, coaches and organisations on the process of improvement and development.

While these steps have served to increase the popularity of the game even further, there are a few things that could be done to enhance the talent level and spearhead the meteoric rise of the sport to mirror the basketball talent level of China.

Likely, the most essential piece of this operation would be to create the infrastructure required to play basketball recreationally around the country. With basketball requiring a hoop, a ball and a concrete or wooden playing surface, the biggest step governing bodies could make would be to increase access to the game to more people.

This would mean having more areas throughout the country in various communities with courts and basketballs available for game play. In return, there would be a higher amount of recreational interest in the sport, which would raise the competition level for all basketball players in the country.

Currently, the sport is limited in competition due to the lack of easy access to the game for the majority of people.

An increased competition level will certainly result in better basketball talent coming out of the country which would have a multiplier effect on the motivation of young players to improve their talent.

Currently, India has not experienced its watershed moment of having a player drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft, something that would undoubtedly catapult the popularity of the sport and motivation of Indian basketball players.

However, there is a steadier talent pool of Indian players being exposed to play at the highest level of youth competitive basketball.

Currently, Princepal Singh is the first Indian player to play competitive basketball beyond the university level in America. Singh is a graduate of the NBA Academy system, and is a talented player who joined the rising stars NBA G-League Ignite Team, which is currently competing in the NBA G-League bubble in Orlando.

While he has not seen many minutes yet, his growth and steady progression in learning the nuances of competitive basketball will make him a player that is necessary to keep an eye on for the future.

With the original pioneers for Indian basketball players in America being outliers in size such as big men like Satnam Singh, the success of players like Princepal Singh in playing competitive basketball clearly shows that the talent level and popularity of the sport continues to improve in India, setting it up well to be the next country where the sport of basketball takes a meteoric leap.

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