The NBA and its Expansion into India

India may be a world away from the basketball courts of the NBA, but that hasn’t stopped the association enjoying growing popularity in the country. A look at the NBA facebook page and you’ll see the sport has more than 3 million fans in the country, and with a population that looks set to grow, this is likely to become more and more.

The NBA is aware of this fact and, since the 2000s, has been expanding into the country. It has already expanded into China successfully, and it understands that India could be the next big market. Below is a look at the impact of the NBA in India, the future of the association in India and how Indian players in the game have helped to promote the NBA in their country of origin.

The impact of the NBA impact on the Indian sports market

When NBA realized the potential of the Indian market, the association wasted no time in screening live games there. A deal with SONY in 2012 helped to make this happen and bring the NBA to a whole new base of fans. The deal, created in an attempt to engage a young fan base, has made it possible for Indian viewers to enjoy much more access to the NBA. With this year’s season slowly drawing to a close, the Milwaukee Bucks are the current favorites in the NBA finals odds, although there is guaranteed drama yet to unfold.

The deal may have also encouraged the same channel to introduce even more basketball to India. SIX have announced they’d also be showing Spain’s top level basketball league, the Liga Endesa, in India. Any fan who likes basketball in India should definitely invest in SONY SIX.

The future of the NBA in India

The NBA hasn’t stopped at just televising games for Indian fans, however. In October 2019, two NBA games took place in the country, featuring the Sacramento Kings (of which boss Vivek Ranive is the NBA’s first Indian-born majority owner) and the Indiana Pacers. The games took place in Mumbai and was the first time all the excitement and the glamour of the most famous basketball association in the world had taken the center stage in India.

This isn’t the only measure the association has taken to promote its growth in India. The NBA has also opened up an NBA Academy India, which is situated on the outskirts of the capital. It’s an elite training center that not only will help to promote the NBA, but also promote basketball as a sport in the country. The academy is fully funded and will help to train Indian stars of the future by providing them with the best coaching and facilities.

The NBA has started other basketball-promoting initiatives as well. In 2013, the association launched the Reliance Foundation Jr NBA program, a comprehensive, school-based basketball initiative that aims to develop basketball further at grassroots level. Additionally, the program seeks to promote the core values of basketball: teamwork, respect, determination and community.

If the success of the NBA’s expansion into China is anything to go by, it can also expect great things in India. In one season, the NBA franchises picked up a cumulative 47 million followers on Chinese social media platforms. In terms of playing basketball, around three hundred million people play basketball in China.

Stars promoting the game in India

Another reason for the increasing popularity of the NBA and basketball in India has been the rise of homegrown talent. Princepal Singh gave the nation hope by making it to the NBA. He joined the association’s G League select team Ignite, a team designed to develop top prospects for the NBA draft and which competes against NBA G League opponents. The team also places the players in good hands by providing life skills training, such as financial literacy, community service involvement and scholarship opportunities.

Satnam Singh is another player to have given India something to smile about. He became the only Indian player to be drafted into the NBA when he signed for the Dallas Mavericks. He listed for the 2015 draft. Unfortunately, he never made it to the roster, but spent two seasons with the NBA G League affiliate, Texas Legends.

Satnam Singh’s rise made him a national star. Such a big star, in fact, that Netflix even made a documentary about him, “One in a Billion”.

The NBA is working hard to expand in India, but it’s still got some work to do. Basketball is becoming more popular, but Indian players seem to be having a hard time making it into the NBA itself. Hopefully, the academy will change that so that India can have more homegrown talent in the NBA to boast about.

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