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NBA eyes the Indian market, delegates Pau Gasol as a league ambassador

Aug 19, 2010, 1:06 PM EDT

As basketball becomes more and more of an international game, the NBA continues to look for opportunities to expand its base. Exhibition games have been played in several other countries (Mexico, the U.K., China), broadcasts are translated and sent out all over the world, and the NBA hosts all kinds of events across almost every continent in its expansion.

Obviously, big markets catch the NBA’s eye. While there’s something to be said about increasing the appeal of the game and popularizing basketball in new countries (and the way those countries would impact the game’s evolution as a result — think the popularity of basketball in Europe has impacted the NBA at all?), these decisions to spread the league’s good word across the world are financial in nature. There are a lot of people not wearing LeBron’s Heat jersey that could be, a lot of television viewers that could be watching but aren’t, and plenty of page views that the dotcom could be getting but isn’t.

China tops the list in terms of national population, and the NBA is off to a roaring start there. Next? India, which has a population of some 1.2 billion people, plenty of whom don’t even know how much they need the NBA just yet. Luckily for them, the league is headed that way to market the hell out of itself. Pau Gasol will headline NBA Cares events in multiple Indian cities next week, including a clinic for underprivileged children and one for the participants in the Mahindra NBA Challenge (explained below). From the release:

The league is in the midst of hosting a record number of events in India this summer. Gasol, a member of the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, is the second NBA superstar to visit India this month following Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard’s visit to Bangalore and Delhi from Aug. 10 to 14.

“I have always wanted to visit India and I am very excited to represent the Lakers and the NBA in a country where basketball is on the rise,” said Gasol.  “As an international player in the NBA, I know how important it is to do my part to grow the game globally and would love to compete against a player from India in the NBA one day.”

Gasol will make appearances with the Larry O’Brien Trophy to take photos with fans in Mumbai and Delhi.  This will be the first time that the trophy will be in India.  He will also conduct clinics in Mumbai on Aug. 26 for participants of the Mahindra NBA Challenge, the league’s first community-based basketball league in India, which tipped off in Mumbai, Bangalore, and Ludhiana this summer and attracted thousands of participants, including top players from each city. 

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