The Popularity Of Basketball In India

The Popularity Of Basketball In India 


Cricket may be considered as a religion in India, but basketball is also hugely popular in the subcontinent.

According to a New York Times report, basketball is the second fastest-growing sport in the country after cricket, with over 4 million participants. How did a game played only by a few people a decade ago become so popular in cricket-mad India? What has caused this remarkable turnaround?

Much of the credit for basketball’s increased popularity in India is because of the National Basketball Association (NBA)—an American men’s professional basketball league—as reported by Baazi King. In this article, we’ll discuss what the NBA has done in the last decade and a half to popularize the game in India. We’ll also look at other factors that have transformed basketball into a mainstream sport in the country.  


Tracing Back Its History

Different countries have their respective reasons why basketball is now being played by their locals–and India is no exception. Just like any other country, basketball was introduced to India decades ago and has continued to increase in popularity since then. 

It was during the 1930s when the first game of basketball was played in the country. Only men were permitted to play the sport back then, and women weren’t even considered to participate. 

During 1934, the very first India National Championship for men was held in New Delhi. This game was hosted by the NBA as part of its Basketball Without Borders program. Aside from being a new sport, men were attracted to the game because of the action and pace it offered. 


NBA Players’ Influence Expands Basketball’s Reach 

In its pursuit to popularize basketball in India, the NBA has been sending star players to visit the country since 2006. A total of 35 prominent ballers have dribbled on the courts of India, with Kevin Garnett holding the record as the first major star player to arrive there. This visit was followed by the arrival of ex-players such as Ron Harper, Sam Perkins, Horace Grant, George Gervin, Muggsy Bogues, Dominique Wilkins, and Peja Stojakovic. All these basketball greats came to India as part of the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program initiative, which has taught the sport to 140,000 kids across 250 schools. 

Basketball is slowly gaining traction in India. These star players want to teach the youth how to properly play the sport and, hopefully, inspire others to take part in playing basketball. Besides teaching kids basketball techniques and moves through this initiative, the NBA hopes to find a basketball superstar in India, just as it found Yao Ming in China.  

So, is there an Indian superstar playing in the NBA yet?  

No, not yet. However, NBA and basketball fans in India would like to believe the day is not far when a basketball superstar will emerge from this South Asian country. This is why prominent professional basketball players and organizations continue to visit India to inspire more people to learn more and play more. 

As a result, more than 5 million boys and girls can now play the sport. One could also see the thousands of courts set up all over the country. Considering these numbers, it’s just a matter of time before an Indian makes a mark in the league.  


Practicality Means More Players

Unlike other sports such as golf, basketball is not an expensive game. Players don’t need to invest in countless equipment to play; as long as they have a ball and a ring, they can start shooting hoops and earning points. This, in turn, has helped make the game more popular in rural India, where 70% of the country’s population resides.

Aside from being an inexpensive sport, basketball doesn’t require much space compared to football, baseball, and cricket. Basketball is generally played in courts with one ring on each side, but locals in India have learned to compromise and play in any size of space they have. As a result, more kids living in rural areas are embracing the game. 


Current Youth Market Propels Basketball’s Popularity

Research shows that 50% of India’s population is under the age of 25. Thus, a significant shift in sports culture is heavily influenced by this high percentage. Young Indians want competitive sports that are fast-paced, easy to learn, and can be played in a short period—which is what basketball offers.  

That said, it’s going to take a long time before Indian schools and colleges start producing teams that can match Ivy league teams such as Harvard Crimson. Sure, the process of training professional basketball players in India might require time, but one thing is certain—this sport will continue to attract more players in the country, and will surely gain more popularity in the coming years. 


Expect For More

Thanks to the efforts of the NBA, basketball is now a mainstream sport in India. With millions of boys and girls currently playing the game, its future indeed looks bright in Asia’s second-largest country.  


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