‘NBA games in India will have significant impact’
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?