Ahead of the NBA India Games, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he's giving ‘serious consideration’ to starting a professional basketball league in India to foster the growth of the sport in the next five years. While Silver was hopeful of a potential league in India, he also pointed out the lack of facilities to achieve that goal.
"I think our two most immediate goals (with regard to India) are; one, to see the development of some top-tier talent coming out of India and into the NBA and WNBA. And, two, serious consideration of the launch of a league. "It's my hope that within five years we have an Indian player in the NBA. For a league, I'd use that same timing. It's something we would hope to do within the next five years,” Silver told media at a press conference before the first game of NBA India Games between Sacramento Kings and Indian Pacers.
Kings owner Vivek Ranadive has reportedly held talks with Silver about the formation of a league in India that would follow the footsteps of the Basketball Africa League, which will begin its inaugural season in March 2020. Ranadive later added that he's had discussions with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi about building arenas in the country.
“We've seen enormous progress in India just in the last five years. One of the things we've been discussing recently ― and I know this is something else my friend Vivek (Ranadive, owner of the Sacramento Kings) is pushing me on ― is the ability to launch a league here in India,” Silver added.
While there was a lot of chatter about the mega event in the city, the NBA had to add seats, install video screens, lights and more ahead of the first-ever pre-season game in India. When asked whether the NBA would welcome more teams playing more games in the future, Silver was optimistic but said India needs more arena infrastructure for that to happen. “This is a fantastic facility we're in today, but it required us bringing in a court, a scoreboard, seats, locker rooms. And it's relatively small, certainly by NBA standards,” he said. Meanwhile, Ranadive also outlined his vision for the sport in India. "What I see happening is that within the next 10 years, this game, it'll never surpass cricket as the national pastime, but it'll be right up there. And hopefully we can launch a league here," said the Mumbai-born businessman, adding that he hoped to see an Indian player in the NBA soon.
Lastly, Silver acknowledged that the NBA India Games is a ‘fantastic and historic’ step, but it’s still just one aspect in the larger scheme of NBA’s development plan for India. "You really have to go into it knowing that this is going to be a long-term project, especially as I said earlier, it requires an arena infrastructure if we're serious about a league. We are connected with the BFI through FIBA. We've been dedicated to the global growth of the game. We work on the ground here in India just as we work globally with our federation,” he concluded.