I’ve always wanted to know what international NBA writers thought about basketball in India. So when I was given the chance to chat with Lenny Carlos, whom you might know from a huge variety of basketball related magazines, WebPages, newspapers and social media pages such as OpenCourt, NBA Buzz, Yahoo, ESPN and HoopsRant, to only name a few, I made the most of this opportunity to get his professional opinion about the current and future basketball potential in India.
Curious to know what he said? Then enjoy the following conversation.
Hi! It’s a pleasure that we can interview you about basketball. Obviously I would like to begin with Satnam Singh. Being a keen observer of the game, what do you think about him and Indian talent in NBA?
Well, I haven’t seen him play in person, but I’ve watched clips of him playing in the summer league, as well as clips of him training at the IMG academy last year. I’ve seen bits of his routine at the Mavericks training camp and I have to say that he seems incredibly raw. I do not want to shatter any dreams, but I think he is a couple of years away from being NBA ready. Cuban already said that he will play with the Texas Legends in the D-League. With his physique and size, he has a lot of upside, his body seems ready to be thrown into the league, his technique and his game needs to improve a lot though, which is normal since he has never played at this level of competition (or even in the NCAA for that matter). Some people say that he’ll probably never play a single game in the NBA, but I wouldn’t go that far. He still is very young, he has got a lot of upside and if he works hard and improves he has a legit shot. I say, wait for a year, maybe two, and then you’ll see him play in the NBA.
His game probably should be more improved at this age, but considering his story and background, I say it’s better than what should be expected. He hasn’t played the game for too long.
I’ve heard that the Legends will bring in former Mavs player DeSagana Diop to mentor and work with Singh. He also is an international player who had to learn the ways of the NBA the hard way, which will be a good thing for Singh.
I really hope for him to make it! It would bring the amazing sport of basketball a little bit closer to India and its people.
Do you think that he can do things for the country like what Yao Ming did for China?
You can compare the history of Yao and Singh, but you also need to know that when Singh makes it to the NBA, he will never be as good as Yao. Yao was on a much higher level when he entered the league.
What do you think of the marketing (and other) opportunities that the NBA will have in India? Especially keeping in mind that he is the first Indian player who got drafted and it’s kind of big deal here.
India has to be seen as a sleeping giant. A country with more than a billion inhabitants, but almost no interest in basketball (one of the world’s most popular sports) now might have the opportunity to get a connection to this amazing sport, thanks to the Mavericks. There is a huge market in India that’s yet to be discovered. I believe that the NBA has a strong interest in making basketball more popular. Just remember all the information, videos, news updates etc. on Sim Bhullar last season, because of his Indian descent, even though he probably sees himself as a Canadian. The NBA knows that there are endless marketing opportunities and a huge market that might develop if Singh won’t be the only player from India to maybe make it in the league. And to be fair, it would work both ways, since more Indians would probably have an easier access to NBA related things. (Shows, game broadcasts, etc.)
NBA players like Kobe and Lebron are visiting china in every off season and NBA sends players to India also to promote basketball; last year it was Isaiah Thomas and the year before Chris Bosh; what do you think of the growth of basketball with these superstars visiting India?
That is exactly what I meant. The NBA has a strong interest in the Indian market. But Bosh and Thomas (no affront) aren’t Kobe and LeBron, if you know what I mean. The key for a nation to gain more interest in a sport is to have a star/player who is able to play at the highest level. Just like you said earlier, when you mentioned Yao, there are many other examples as well (Nowitzki being from Germany for example). Players visiting other countries and regions in the off season help to promote the game and the league, but only players from there are able to attract a bigger audience in my opinion. Unless basketball always used to be a sport that had been played in a country, or at least for a long time, like in the Philippines. Then that is a different story.
What do you think of a national league in India for basketball?
Of course! A national league in India would be huge. It’s probably more important than having a couple of NBA players. If there is a league, the sport itself is closer to the people. If some old stars (like the way the Indian soccer league is trying right now) would play in that league, it would be even better. This would generate a system with more kids in India playing basketball as a hobby, basketball being taught in more schools and so on… The key for a sport to be persistent is to involve the younger generations.
As you know the Sacramento Kings team owner is an Indian and what do you think of his role in popularizing the sport?
My mother always told me that it you can’t say something positive about another person, it’s better to say nothing at all. I think he made some stupid decisions last year, especially the whole Mike Malone thing. But like I said, I don’t want to talk bad about people, even more if I don’t know them personally. But to add one thing: it’s hard to build/manage/own a team in a sport that you only started being interested in because of the acquisition of a team.
What do you think of NBA global games possibly being played in India? I know that’s a greedy thought…
Why would it be greedy? I think it would be a great idea. Just like recently in South Africa. It was huge. The fans loved it, the players loved it; it was a total success. If the NBA recognizes a (general) higher interest in the game, I bet that it won’t be long for India to host an NBA global game. It will happen in the near future. It’s every NBA fan’s dream to see the players perform in person once. And if you don’t have the opportunity to travel to an actual game in the US, the Global Games are perfect for that matter.
Have you heard of the Junior NBA programme that NBA is operating in India?
I’ve heard/read about the partnership with the reliance foundation which is another step into the right direction for the NBA as well as for Basketball fans in India and children in general. The best part of the Junior Programme is the “Train the Trainer programme” for local coaches. This is important. If there is no one to teach something, it is hard for children to learn about it.
How much can FIBA championships contribute to the game in India?
I only think that FIBA tournaments contribute if the team is successful. But therefore, a league and a youth program is inevitable. The better the inner structure, the better the team obviously.
What are the areas to be developed comparing other countries? Will basketball academies help?
In order to accomplish “on court” objectives you need to build the administrative base of the sport. You need to recruit more dedicated volunteers to work for the sport and at the same time give them the knowledge and the skills to run it and take it forward. The base, as always, are the children. You need to start having basketball in more clubs, in schools, build courts in the parks, or on streets. You need to build (High) Performance Centres and a lot more. But as I said before, the most important thing, in my opinion, is to have a national league. Then things might develop easier and faster.
Thanks for sharing your ideas about basketball in India and other views about what we can do in order to make the game bigger in our country!
As I said, no problem at all. If this helps to bring the sport of basketball closer to some people, it is completely worth it.