‘NBA is here to take over cricket as the Number 1 sport in India’

Mumbai: Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) legend Ebony Hoffman is confident that basketball will soon be able to challenge the status quo in the Indian sporting scene and will be a game every kid will want to play in the future.

"We are coming here to take over. We love India and we know that cricket is the Number 1 sport here. We want to grow our game and show India that they have basketball, which can also be the Number 1 sport."

The 37-year-old, who is in Mumbai this week as a part of different NBA programmes being held across the city, also said that despite the temptations of starting a lucrative basketball league in India on the lines of Indian Premier League and others, the NBA is currently focusing on developing basketball from the grassroot level and steadily going up the ranks.

“We are first going to start at the grassroot level and see how that goes. We will figure it out before going up the ranks but anything is possible. I think we need to work with the federations to make sure that we can coincide that, and when the federations work together like we are doing it now with our academies, we are all good.”

When asked what objective NBA wants to achieve with such grassroots community, youth basketball and elite development events and how the NBA plans on improving the coaching facility in India, Hoffman said, "It is about what they don’t know. And that is what we are here to bring. How could you teach what you don’t know, right? So we are here to tell them that we are going to give you the skills, we are going to give the curriculum and we will just be encouraging.

"Basketball is not mistake-free, there is no perfect game. Even if you make 100 per cent in your shots, you still get something wrong. So you need to be more encouraging to the players and let them know that they can do it.

“At NBA Academy in New Delhi, we have got an Indian player, who is 6’8’’ point guard. He can fly high and can shoot the ball from long. We have another Indian player from Australia, who is changing the game. I think India is on the verge of producing an NBA player, we also have Omar, a post player who is in NBA Academy, and getting offers from D-1 (NCAA Division I) from America. So there is going to be an Indian there in NBA very soon."

Commenting on the upcoming NBA pre-season matches to be played in Mumbai, Hoffman said the Indian audience will see a wider range of talent that they have never seen live before. "It’s a lot different when you see in person and when you see it on your TV screen. So I am excited for all of India to see that in person and raise their game."

While the October 4 game is reserved for over 3,000 youth under a Reliance Foundation Junior Programme, the one to be played the next day at NSCI in Worli is open for general public. Hoffman on Monday took a session with girls and taught them the basics of basketball.

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Free Press Journal