Franchise heads to India for first time . . .
This weekend two NBA teams, the Sacramento Kings and the Indiana Pacers, will play two preseason games in Mumbai. It will be the first NBA games in India and also the first time for a North American sports league to play in the country. Both teams are already in India and have visited the Taj Mahal and posted pictures riding Tuk Tuks. Cricket has long been the most popular sport in India, but other sports are gaining ground. Soccer, field hockey, and basketball are on the rise among the country’s 700 million young people.
Scouting an Indian ‘superstar’ . . .
The NBA has been warming-up the Indian market over the past decade by building training centres and promoting the sport in local schools. The league has identified India as its next billion-dollar market, and is looking to replicate its China miracle. After legendary Chinese player Yao Ming was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2002, the NBA’s operation in China has grown to a value of US$4 billion.
Sports, middle-class, and politics . . .
As one of the fastest-growing economics in the world, Indian has a ballooning middle-class that is digitally connected and globally minded. Middle-class consumer spending in the country is expected to grow four-fold by 2030. As part of its Indian expansion, the NBA has carefully aligned its goals with the Modi government’s initiative of improving the country’s sports performance, and it fits well within the context of the warming Modi-Trump bromance. At the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ rally in Houston, Texas, last month, Trump said in his speech: "Very soon, India will have access to another world-class American product – NBA basketball!” before he turned to ask Modi, "Am I invited, Mister Prime Minister?"