Dec 24, 2010, 12:22 PM EST
There has never been an NBA player born in India — which puts it behind even Egypt.
But India is the second most populous nation on the face of the earth and if David Stern is serious about globalization of the game — and he is — then India has to be targeted.
And it is, as the New York Times points out in an interesting Christmas Eve story. This goes beyond just Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol going to India this past summer to play ambassador — that was just the visible tip of the iceberg. (The photo to the right is Gasol dunking on an Indian youth, so he can know what it is like to be Timofey Mozgov.)
“The race is now on to become India’s second-most popular sport (behind cricket),” said Sunder Aaron, the head of Pix, one of two Indian television channels that earlier this month signed a new contract to broadcast live games and other N.B.A.-produced programming…
A core part of the N.B.A.’s expansion strategy in India is increasing grass-roots participation in the game, based on the argument that people who play basketball are also more likely to follow the N.B.A. The N.B.A. also knows that the more Indians who play basketball, the more likely it is that one day an Indian player will be good enough to make the leap to the N.B.A. itself — an event that could vastly expand the league’s popularity in the world’s second-most populous nation.
Of course, the real breakthrough for the NBA in India will be what the article calls the “Yao Ming moment” — when someone from India finally makes it to the NBA. That might be Satnam Singh Bhamara, a 7-foot 14-year-old from rural northern India. One of the NBA’s men on the ground in India found him and now is trying to get him into the IMG basketball academy in Florida.
But even without that, the story is an interesting one — India has an emerging middle class with disposable incomes, and every major sports league in the world is trying to figure out how to get a piece of that.
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