Kings owner Vivek Ranadive's team to have NBA exhibitions in native India
“Sharing Indian culture with our fans and connecting with our supporters in India represents the incredible opportunity we have as an NBA team to use our platform to unite people," he said.
“Sharing Indian culture with our fans and connecting with our supporters in India represents the incredible opportunity we have as an NBA team to use our platform to unite people through ashared passion for the game. When I first came into the NBA, Adam Silver [now commissioner of NBA] promised me that one day we would have a game in India with the Kings and I am so grateful that he’s come through on that promise,” Ranadivé told ET Sport in an exclusive email interview from California.
The first Indian American to own an NBA franchise, Ranadivé bought Sacramento Kings in 2013 along with a group of investors, after selling his share in Golden State Warriors, of which he was the co-owner and vice-chairman since 2010. Ranadivé, who grew up in Mumbai, feels special that his team is going to play in India and get the opportunity to interact with the Indian community. “It is incredibly exciting to play these matches and have this experience in the city where I was born. Each year in Sacramento we host Bollywood Night, playing on a court featuring a Hindi logo, and stream and broadcast Kings games to millions of people in India,” he said.
The fact that US President Donald Trump mentioned the NBA matches in Mumbai during the ‘Howdy, Modi’ event with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston last month has generated a lot of interest both in India and the US. “There is nothing like watching live NBA action. I have no doubt that these games will serve as an inspiration and catalyst for even more exciting things to come. There is already an unprecedented demand for basketball in India. Since my visit to India with Adam Silver five years ago, over 10 million boys and girls have participated in Jr. NBA camps and tickets to this week’s games in my hometown nearly sold out in two hours,” Ranadivé said.
Along with the matches in Mumbai, Kings are also joining NBA in a week-long series of grassroots community activities in India, including programming from NBA Cares, Jr. NBA, Her Time to Play and NBA Academy. “In partnership with the American India Foundation, we're building a basketball court and creating better facilities to support STEM education in under-resourced municipal schools in and around Mumbai. This is an investment in the education and growth, both physically and mentally, of underserved youth in India that will transform their lives for years to come.” And with basketball emerging as one of the fastest growing sport in India, Ranadivé is hopeful that the NBA will “host more games in India, see an Indian superstar in the league and start a league in India”.
Interestingly, the first player of Indian origin to play in the NBA, Canadian-Indian Sim Bhullar, played for Sacramento Kings in 2015.
While there will be no players of Indian origin in the October 4 and 5 games, one of the assistant coaches of the Kings is Roy Rana, a Canadian-Indian professional coach.