Mumbai, Oct 3 (IANS) In a bid to increase the popularity of basketball in India, for the first time two NBA teams — Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings, will face-off at the NSCI Dome here on Friday and it seems the initiative has already gained the first break as the entire tickets have been sold out.
The two-day contest has been actually the driving force by Sacramento Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadive, who wants a cricket crazy India to recognize basketball.
Speaking on the eve of the match, Ranadive said: “I am very excited as I am a Mumbaikar and returning back to a city were I took birth is matter of great happiness. Organising such a great event in hometown and my country is really very special moment for me.”
“The contest has a long story behind and I believe in next 10 years we will produce great talents from India who will feature in the NBA. I also feel basketball will be the next most popular sport in India,” he added.
“Definitely, cricket is the most popular game in India but I believe basketball will also gain popularity here as it could be played both indoors and outdoors and even in the urban and rural areas. I am confident basketball will become a popular sporting discipline in India,” he expressed.
Prior to their new season, the NBA teams compete in pre-season contests and try to figure out their strengths and weaknesses.
Meanwhile, Kings’ star player Buddy Hield said: “We will try to play our natural game and will look to rectify our mistakes before the 2019-20 season. It is just a pre-season game but we will have to get better with time.”
Kings had a decent run in the last edition of the game but failed to make to the play-offs. However, Hield is confident that his team will surely make to the play-offs. “Me and my team both want to be in the play-offs this season. We fumbled in the play-offs last season but this time we aim to enter the play-offs without committing any mistakes. After looking at my team, I feel we can make it.”
Significantly, Reliance has also been a major force behind bringing a major basketball event in India. Both NBA and Reliance Foundation have invited around 3,000 students from over 70 schools to witness the game in Mumbai.