In Springfield, back in 1891, the sport of basketball was born. Since then, the game has grown increasingly popular across the globe. At the time of writing, basketball has established itself as one of the most-enjoyed sports within India. Although it has yet to cement its status as a leading sport within the country, the potential undoubtedly appears to be there for it to challenge the likes of football, kabaddi, and, maybe in the future, cricket. So, just how significant of a step has the Indian basketball scene taken in the last few years?
The Country Has Made Significant Steps Forward
According to a report at CNN.com, back in September 2015, Sim Bhullar became the first player of Indian descent to play in the National Basketball Association. Shortly after signing his deal with the Sacramento Kings, the now 28-year-old then cemented his place in the history books in becoming the first Indian player to score in the NBA, when he did so against the Utah Jazz in a pre-season game. Since then, three other players have signed for NBA teams. In the past five years, Amjyot Singh, Palpreet Singh, and Satnam Singh were drafted by the Oklahoma City Blue, Long Island Nets, and Dallas Mavericks, respectively.
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It’s a testament to India’s new-found love of basketball that, as per a report by BleacherReport.com from 2014, the NBA’s first Indian-born majority owner, Vivek Ranadive, labeled the game as the “fastest-growing sport” in the South Asian country. Interestingly, one year after Ranadive’s comments about India’s basketball scene, the region formed its first men’s professional league, the United Basketball League. The division features eight teams, and their goal is to develop the next generation of future local stars.
Encouraging Immersion is Central to Future Growth
Of course, there are no guarantees regarding how successful India’s basketball scene will become over the coming years. That said, it’s encouraging that Jason Williams, a one-time NBA champion, recently highlighted the impact of both the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings playing a pre-season game in Mumbai back in October 2019. The 1999 NBA All-Rookie First Team winner stated that such games, albeit non-competitive, will play a crucial role in speeding up the process of unlocking India’s full basketball potential, according to OutlookIndia.com.
According to the earlier article by Bleacher Report, the NBA had 120 basketball courts in Mumbai back in 2014, and this indicates how local players are striving to further immerse themselves in the sport. Regarding immersion, because of the significant growth that the court-based sport has enjoyed over the past few decades, it is now one of the most popular markets at numerous sports betting platforms, many of which have moved into the Indian market. For example, BettingGuru.in lists 888sport as one of the operators offering Indian players bonuses to sign up, and they host markets for basketball in countries like Sweden and Puerto Rico - this just shows the sport's growing significance. To date, India possesses a hardcore group of basketball supporters, and the availability of basketball-related betting markets reflects that.
The Future Looks Bright
Although India is yet to have its breakthrough NBA star, the country is unquestionably closer than ever before to creating a world-class player. Given the progression that has occurred over the last six years, there’s reason to believe that the upcoming decade could be the catalyst in further raising India’s ever-growing basketball status.