Earlier today, a post-game con call was held between Sacramento Kings’ duo of Vivek Ranadive (majority owner) and Sim Bhullar, the first Indian origin basketballer in the NBA, with the Indian media. Although Bhullar didn’t get to play in today’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans, the chat was an eye-opener in more ways than one. Questions for Bhullar ranged from the shortness of his 10 day contract, his fitness level, the inevitable learning curve from college basketball, D League and now the NBA, and how he handles the pressure of being the first Indian-origin player in the league.
On his part, Ranadive spoke about being in regular touch with current Indian men’s head coach Scott Flemming on the possibility of current Indian players trying their luck, just like Bhullar, in the Kings’ D League affiliate team Reno Big Horns. Ranadive also prophesized on the potential growth of basketball in India and the recent surge in popularity thanks to Abhishek Bachchan’s participation in the All-Star celebrity game, another first for an Indian.
Our student contributor, Adarsh D Rao, managed to sneak in a couple of fun questions right at the end for both Bhullar and Ranadive:
To Sim: We didn’t get to see you today, but we saw the match-up between DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, so how do you think it would have gone had you played today instead of Cousins. How do you think you will perform 1 on 1 against Davis?
Ranadive: I think Sim would destroy him!
Sim: I have no idea, can’t answer that question without being on the court with him. I haven’t had a chance to be in a full game yet.
To Sim Again: This is just the beginning for you and you have a way to go in terms of physical aspects and otherwise to be truly considered as ‘NBA fit’. How are you approaching this 10 day contract in terms of showcasing your talent?
I’m taking it day by day. During every day that I have in this Kings organisation, I’m going to make the most of this chance of being in the NBA and be a part of the team during the regular season. I am happy with the experience I’m getting. I want to go to the gym and work extra hard and show that I can be here for the long term.
To Vivek: There are development academies in India from other sports, including branches of top football clubs belonging to the European Leagues. Do you have any similar plans to have training academies in India to get athletes across to the NBA?
We are very interested in developing the game of basketball in India at all levels. So we are exploring all the options to do that. One of the ideas I had when I came to India a few months ago with Silver [NBA Commissioner Adam Silver] is when we met Mukesh [industrialist Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries], is to create a league in India, which I’d like to call ‘Monsoon Madness’ [in line with the March Madness concept in US College Basketball] and modelled on the Kabaddi league and have both Indian and international players to participate in the league. So we are looking for all the ways to share the joys of basketball in India.