Luc Longley is a towering personality, both physically and figuratively. The 7’ 2” tall NBA star had revolutionised the growth of basketball back home in Australia, where rugby and Australian Rules football dominate sports.

Quite proud about his role as the first NBA player from Australia, Luc felt that basketball was not rocket science and a country with a huge population like India had the capacity to develop, particularly with the NBA providing the tools.

“I was the first to go to college in the US for basketball, and the first to make it to the NBA. Now there are more than a thousand Australians in American colleges. There have also been a few players in the NBA. The progress of the game back home went through the roof, and I am proud about it,” said Longley, in an interaction with The Hindu here on Wednesday.

One of the many NBA stars to descend into India as part of the development programme, the 43-year-old Longley will witness the Indian talent in the NBA Mahindra Challenge event at the Thyagaraj Indoor Stadium over the next few days, and help spot talent and provide guidance.

“I have heard that there is a lot of love for the game here, though you have to work around cricket which is the No.1 sport. There is a big appetite for the game, and the Indian people have the positive trait and are a happy lot,” he said, presenting a fine understanding of the situation.

Longley said that patience was the key to positive growth, and that if everything was done right, it would automatically lead to a healthy growth trajectory.

Rating basketball second to football in terms of popularity around the world, Longley pointed out that basketball tickets, including for women’s games, were hard to get in the Olympics.

Quite satisfied with his career, when he played along with Michael Jordan for Chicago Bulls that won the NBA championship thrice, Longley said that he was proud to have been part of the Australian team that finished fourth in the Olympics twice.

“I do miss the Olympic medal,” said Longley.

Quite categorical that height was not everything, and that speed, skill and an understanding of the game played a big part, Longley said people needed to have a lot of patience in handling tall players as their maturity might not match their physical growth. He emphasised that it took time for tall people to develop core strength around their waist.

“We don’t have a lot of tall people in the NBA. Half of them are short and some of them are the best in the game. They are prepared to share the ball and that works better for the team,” he said.

Saying that he liked the 3-on-3 format, which served as an appetiser in preparing players before the full course, Longley opined that basketball was popular because it was easy to practise anywhere and did not require much space, as compared to football, quite envied by the rest of the world for having a commercial stranglehold.

“Of course, I enjoyed playing in the NBA, but I still remember playing with my brother, and in the park,” he said.

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