Inspired by IPL's fan connect, says NBA Asia boss
“We cannot take fandom for granted. We are inspired by and have tremendous respect for cricket and for the IPL," Ramez Sheikh, NBA Asia MD, said.
Ramez Sheikh, the Managing Director of NBA Asia and India, said that the American basketball league is “inspired by and has tremendous respect” for the Indian Premier League (IPL) that started in 2008.
The IPL took the Western franchise model and made it into one of the world’s biggest and richest sports brands. After this year's media rights auction, the IPL was touted as the second most valuable league in the world, behind USA's National Football League (NFL).
“The IPL has done a tremendous job to evolve and create a product that continues to be relevant and interesting in thought. All sports, even the NBA in the United States, were very popular but you need to continue to think about how to maintain the relevance and interest in their fans,” Sheikh, who took over as NBA Asia MD in May, said on Saturday.
“We cannot take fandom for granted. In India, the IPL would agree. We are inspired by and have tremendous respect for cricket and for the IPL. We are learning, that’s one of the fun things about my job, being in markets where the NBA is new and fresh and we have a lot to do to create fans and an entertainment experience. So, we are learning a lot.”
The NBA is currently hosting two international pre-season games with the Atlanta Hawks facing Milwaukee Bucks at the Etihad Arena here. Atlanta won the first game on Thursday with the second one scheduled for Saturday evening.
“We have to continue to really understand our fans. That’s where the IPL specifically has done a tremendous job in creating a wonderful spectacle, changing the very nature of the game, the time, the format. That’s something that even in the United States we are constantly thinking about," said Sheikh.
The NBA is making a big push for the Asian market with Tokyo and Abu Dhabi being the only two cities outside the Americas to host the international pre-season games this year. The international games were not held the last three years due to the Covid-19 pandemic before which they held two games at the NSCI Dome in Mumbai where the Sacramento Kings took on the Indiana Pacers in October 2019.
"We would love to come back to India just as our commissioner Adam Silver said but we don’t have a specific timeframe. We had an amazing experience in 2019. Our plans for India are really focussed. It is an important market for us," said Sheikh.
“We have been there, we have had boots on the ground for close to a decade and we recognise that for the NBA as much as we are committed to the market, the market is going to require us to be patient and focused and have a long-range view and part of that is to look at bringing events like a game but also focussing on other parts of our business and how we continue to grow and engage our fans and partners.”