USA’s National Basketball Association, better known as the NBA, announced on Thursday that two of its pre-season games will be played in India in 2019. This makes it the first American sports league to make its forray into the country.
The NBA announced that Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings will play two pre-season games in Mumbai on October 4 and 5. A release said that the match will be played at the NSCI Dome in Worli, which has most recently served as a venue for Pro Kabaddi matches.
“Our inaugural NBA India Games will help further untap the enormous basketball potential in a country with a thriving sports culture and a growing, young and engaged population,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in the release. “We thank the Kings and Pacers organisations for participating in this historic event,” he added.
The release states also states that the league will also arrange interactive fan activities, junior NBA youth basketball programming and NBA Cares community outreach events.
The Kings, under the leadership of the NBA’s first Indian-born majority owner and Mumbai native Vivek Ranadive, currently features 2018 No. 2 overall draft pick Marvin Bagley III, 2017 No. 5 overall draft pick DeAaron Fox and 2016 No. 6 overall draft pick Buddy Hield (Bahamas).
The Pacers roster currently features 2018 NBA All-Star Victor Oladipo, 2016 NBA All-Rookie second team member Myles Turner and 2016 No. 11 overall draft pick Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania).
“We are proud to be the first global sports league to bring games of this scale to India. The NBA and basketball have never been more popular in India, and fans will get to enjoy world-class showcases for our sport between two exciting teams in the Sacramento Kings and the Indiana Pacers,” said Colaco.
Kings owner and Mumbai-native Vivek Ranadive said his team is looking forward to playing in the first NBA games in India. “The Sacramento Kings are proud to be playing in the first NBA games ever held in India. As an Indian-American, it is an honour to help bring this historic moment to the country where I was raised,” said Ranadive. “We are thrilled to be one of the first two teams to play the first-ever game in India and proud to be part of the expanding NBA worldwide footprint of our game of basketball,” said Simon.
The NBA matches are telecast live in India. The 2018-19 season includes five consecutive Sunday games from March 10 to April 7 that will air in primetime in the country. Since 2006, more than 35 current and former NBA and Women’s NBA players have visited India. The NBA office in Mumbai opened in 2011. The NBA Academy India, a training center in Delhi, officially opened in May last year.