Stan Rayan

KOCHI: Chennai could be NBA’s home in India within the next few months. After the success of its ‘Basketball Without Borders’ programme in New Delhi last week, the world’s most famous professional basketball league now plans to set up a base in the country.

“We plan to open a NBA office in India within the next six to eight months. We had a look at some of the facilities in Chennai, and at the SRM University, they are great. There is a lot of support for the sport too,” Akash Jain, Director-International Development, NBA Entertainment, told The Hindu here on Thursday afternoon.

“Of course, we’ve not finalised the venue yet. We’ve seen Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai and now Kochi and we’re still evaluating the locations,” said Jain, after having a look at the facilities at the Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium here and the Star Lagoon Hotel at Thevara here along with Mark Aronson, Vice President, NBA Entertainment’s Events and Attractions Group. Kolkata will be their next halt. The two had been to Bangalore earlier.

Apart from initiating programmes to develop basketball at all levels in the country and strengthening the relationship with the Basketball Federation of India and basketball stake-holders, the NBA office will also manage and grow the NBA business in India, said Jain who has his roots in Rajasthan.

Strong base in China

“China is the NBA’s No. 1 market outside the U.S. — nearly 300 million play basketball there — and the NBA has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei and Hong Kong,” said Akash.

The NBA sees a lot of potential in India.

The BFI plans to launch its maiden professional basketball league in October and the world body FIBA and NBA are keenly watching the developments.

“We believe that the Pro League is important for the overall development of the sport in India,” said Aronson.

“A strong foundation exists for basketball in India.

“What we need is to organise and structure the sport to see that it thrives in the long term. We have discussed with the BFI on how to manage, structure and execute a pro league based on the 60 years experience of the NBA.”

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