Journalist Karan Madhok gives a detailed rundown on hoops-related topics in India
By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (March 4, 2014) — It’s been well-documented that there are millions of basketball enthusiasts in China. Yao Ming’s NBA career raised basketball’s profile and popularity in China in profound ways.
Here are excerpts from our email interview.
It was a two-way “hook” for me: I studied in a school in India where basketball was prioritized and was the most popular sport. So, from an early age, we were competitive among each other to improve our skills and therefore, competitive to get to know as much about the game as possible. I watched a lot of NBA basketball, starting from Michael Jordan’s “last shot” in 1998 and the subsequent season. That season had a major effect on me as the underdog Knicks made the NBA Finals (as the first eight-seed to ever do it), a run that included big shots by Allan Houston and Larry Johnson in the playoffs. Tragically, I’m still a Knicks fan today! I loved basketball a lot because it was fast-paced, energetic, and everyone on court had to be responsible at all times (unlike cricket and other sports).
I report on both Indian basketball and the NBA nearly every single day in a month — especially during the NBA season — and I write about 1-2 articles for various publications every day.
The big difference is that, now, I’m instantly connected. I could still catch up with all the news I wanted in the NBA from any place at the end of the day. Nowadays, no bit of news is more than a few seconds away.
Your column linked here (http://ekalavyas.com/2014/02/18/league-changes-professional-basketball-league-revolutionize-hoops-india/) provides a detailed, passionate plea to elevate the sport’s status in India and literally get the ball rolling in the right direction. What kind of reaction has this column generated in India among players and coaches, team executives and top sponsors and the big movers and shakers? How about among the fans?
That column has been positively received by Indian basketball fans, grassroots level coaches, and some players. Everyone connected with the game has been talking about and hoping for a professional league. The high-level executives in India have been mostly silent so far with any definite plans for the league. For sponsors, columns like these are encouraging because it reminds them that, if not now, there is hope in investing in Indian basketball in the future.
If an Indian is good enough to play at the high level, then I completely believe that young players should be encouraged about the opportunities of playing at the NCAA level and getting an American college education. I think it will be be important to try and emulate the professionalism of the American collegiate sports system in India to have an option for young players who aren’t good enough to make it to the NCAA level.
Do you believe bureaucratic nepotism and corruption and/or incompetence are the chief core problems the Basketball Federation of India must overcome before a pro league can be launched? Are there any visionary leaders you have seen emerging to be the force behind a new league or very important transitional period toward a pro era?
It’s interesting you have noted that reportedly David Stern may have more direct contact with NBA India in the future now that he’s no longer the commissioner. Have business leaders and government officials in Mumbai, New Delhi and elsewhere made a plea to get preseason games in India?
Just curious, from an Indian perspective, is the fact that Sacramento owner Ranadive now has a major position within the league an important tie-in to the NBA India to promote the sport and future opportunities for Indians to work in the league in various capacities?
The clinic (in late February) was held during India’s national basketball championship in New Delhi. Although there were about 600 young players and close to 100 officials at this eight-day tournament, I can assume that there might have been around 200 attendees at Harris’ clinic.
Before Flemming, the BFI hired a few more “higher-profile” coaches for the national team, none of whom were able to make a long-term commitment to India and thus, weren’t able to develop a team organically and see it improve. Flemming seems to be well-fitted for the cultural challenges of India and has accepted them with open arms. He has brought stability to the national team, and a system of development on and off the court. A few months ago, he was able to lead the team to a gold medal at the Lusofonia Games (http://http//hoopistani.blogspot.com/2014/01/india-win-mens-basketball-gold-at-goas.html), where India defeated higher-ranked teams like Angola and Mozambique.
Indeed, India, and, as we know, South Asia in general, is a cricket-crazed place. That said, how vital is clever and persistent marketing to catch (and maintain) people’s interest in basketball? And can you think of a marketing strategy, advertisement or PR campaign — perhaps before a national championship tournament, for instance — that has reaped rewards, been successful, in India for hoops?
Which current NBA player(s) would you say are the five most-popular players among Indians?
Who’s your all-time favorite NBA player?