‘NBA games in In­dia will have sig­nif­i­cant im­pact’

In­ter­view

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Sport - [email protected] times­group.com Have you been watch­ing NBA games of late? Why is the NBA spe­cial?

New Delhi: The United States am­bas­sador to In­dia, Ken­neth I. Juster, has had a busy day in the of­fice. Back at his res­i­dence late in the af­ter­noon af­ter a spate of meet­ings, he still looks fresh as he sits down for a chat on one of his favourite top­ics – bas­ket­ball.

The Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (NBA), which runs the world’s top bas­ket­ball league in the US, is bring­ing two pre-sea­son games to In­dia. The Sacra­mento Kings and In­di­ana Pac­ers will play back-to­back games on Oc­to­ber 4 and 5 in Mum­bai. These games have the fans, in­clud­ing the 64-year-old am­bas­sador, ex­cited. He talks about that and more in an in­ter­view. Ex­cerpts…

I played bas­ket­ball through high school, but was not tall enough to play be­yond that. One of my great child­hood thrills was at­tend­ing Willis Reed’s bas­ket­ball camp in the sum­mer of 1969, be­tween ninth and tenth grade. Reed was the star cen­ter for the New York Knicks in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the NBA’s Most Valu­able Player for the 1969-1970 sea­son, when the Knicks won the cham­pi­onship. I was for­tu­nate to be the Most Valu­able Player of the All-Star Game at his camp. (He then walks to a cor­ner and re­turns with a signed pho­to­graph.) This is a photo of Willis pre­sent­ing me with the MVP tro­phy. It was prob­a­bly the peak of my ath­letic ca­reer!

It is dif­fi­cult to watch NBA games in In­dia be­cause of the time dif­fer­ence. More­over, my team, the New York Knicks, which won two cham­pi­onships when I was younger, has not been do­ing so well in re­cent years. But I am still a big bas­ket­ball fan and cer­tainly try to watch some of the play­off games. One of the qual­i­ties that I most en­joy about bas­ket­ball is the meld­ing of in­di­vid­ual skills within the broader frame­work of the team.

We hope that the im­pact will be sig­nif­i­cant. I un­der­stand that the arena will be filled to ca­pac­ity on both nights. So there is great an­tic­i­pa­tion of the games. I think the NBA would tell you that once there is an In­dian or In­dian-Amer­i­can player in the league, en­thu­si­asm for the sport in In­dia will rise to an even higher level.

The NBA sees In­dia as a great place for ex­pand­ing its sport, as a po­ten­tial source for fu­ture bas­ket­ball play­ers, and as a huge po­ten­tial mar­ket.

Bas­ket­ball is an ap­peal­ing sport be­cause you need just a ball and a bas­ket; there is not re­ally any other equip­ment. You can play alone, or games of one-on-one, two-on-two, and all the way up to the tra­di­tional team game of five-on-five. The top pro­fes­sional league, the NBA, has truly be­come an in­ter na­tional league, with the best play­ers from all over the world com­pet­ing.

As the United States and In­dia con­tinue to ex­pand our peo­ple-topeo­ple re­la­tion­ships – and there are now over four mil­lion In­dian-Amer­i­cans -- it is only nat­u­ral for there to be more ex­changes of sports that are played in each coun­try.

Sports is a great com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor. It brings peo­ple to­gether. Folks may not share the same back­ground or po­lit­i­cal per­spec­tive, but when they get on the sports field or watch in the stands, they are all the same.

US am­bas­sador to In­dia Can we see other teams from dif­fer­ent sports vis­it­ing In­dia in the fu­ture? Can other Amer­i­can sports be­come pop­u­lar in In­dia?

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