‘Hope to see India reach the pinnacle’
Mumbai: They came, they cheered their lungs out, they left spellbound.
There were 3000 of them. All children from the Reliance Foundation Jr NBA Schools programme. “We were the first audience to witness two NBA teams play a game in India for the first time,” they are sure to be bragging to their friends for some time.
Sacramento Kings taking on the Indiana Pacers, in what was an official pre-season game here at NSCI on Friday, represented not just a thrilling moment for these boys and girls, all students of schools in Mumbai, but one lady in particular — Nita Ambani.
The founder and chairperson of Reliance Foundation, flanked by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Indiana Pacers centre Myles Turner and Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox, got the party started, handing over the match ball to the NBA officials.
“Its my dream to see India become a truly multi-sport nation. Reliance Foundation is excited to present the first ever NBA game in India and share our joy of celebration of six years of NBA partnership with these wonderful and budding basketballers from our Junior NBA program. I hope to see India on the global sports pinnacle,” Ambani said. It was then time for the players to do their bit as the Ambani family sat back and enjoyed the show.
Ahead of Friday’s epic encounter that crept into overtime, much to the delight of the screaming young audience, most of whom would have retired to bed with sore voices and legs, Silver made it a point to mention the role of Ambani’s foundation in his press conference.
“I want to particularly thank Nita Ambani and the Reliance Foundation for being the presenter of these games and particularly tonight’s game which is devoted to the kids of Mumbai, the young boys and girls who play the game of basketball, who have been part of our Jr. NBA prog ramme which has now reached an incredible 10 million kids in India,” said Silver.
The energy that flowed through the NSCI dome cont ributed to t he dramatic clash according to Pacers coach Nate McMillan. “It was good energy out there. The kids were loud, kids are loud anyway, but they were good, they were into the game,” said McMillan.
“Iwasn’t sure if they were going to be pulling for the Pacers or the Kings. It was somewhat of a mixed crowd, but good energy and the guys fed off that.”
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