About a decade and half ago, we had to make do with things besides our TVs, computers, and other digital accessories for entertainment. Imagining life without these things which the younger generation takes for granted seems like throwing them back to the stone age. Entire neighborhoods would have just one television around which everyone would huddle around. Kids would play hide and seek and a bunch of make believe games. The high point in those times would be when carnivals and fairs came to the small town. There would be performers livening up the carnival, dance and music, juggling, and showcase of various other skills. Exotic food for all. Then the next morning the ground would be barren, tents pulled off, and the troupe would be on their way to another city and we would look at the grounds and wonder was it all just a dream.
Back then traveling troupes would go around towns, set up a temporary base, capture everyone’s imagination and then pack off to another town. I remember jumping up and down as a kid whenever we could go and visit a carnival. Games such as shoot the balloon, throw the ring in a peg, throw a ball through a hole in a wall. I never figured the names of those games. They were just fun to indulge in as a kid even if I didn’t grasp the rules or technicalities fully.
Looking back on it brings a twinge of nostalgia for the good old days. Looking around with some awareness makes me realize that those days are not gone by. We still have carnivals around us. While the troupes of yesterday would be characterized by a caravan, with more of a Gypsy feel, the exact same thing is happening in India albeit in a more polished and professional manner.
For one weekend Noida, Hyderabad, Chennai and Mumbai will play host to the NBA 3X. A basketball carnival going from one city to the next and then flying in the winners from the first three cities to the fourth for the National Finals.
I’d love to see a time lapse video of the entire setup. How do you just conjure up a basketball court out of nowhere? You place portable hoops and lay out interlocking terraflex tiles to create the surface. For the boundary lines or three point lines you don’t paint the tiles. You simply lay down tapes on the floor. And surround it all with banners and standees and runner boards. All said and done you get four hoops laid out to create miniature half courts. Three of these courts play home to the tourney, and the fourth one is for fan events. What used to be the outside of a mall/college, is turned into a basketball haven for a weekend. There are also musical performances here to add to the ambiance.
The tourney is for two age groups, 16-18 and 18-23. Players duke it out for a shot at becoming the national champions. For those too young/old/disinterested there are a lot of other hoop themed events.
The USP of these carnivals is that they take the fun part of the sport and mix it up with casual hoops for a complete package where there is something for everyone. While a full court five-on-five basketball match with a 40-minute running time may appeal more to the purists, three-on-three takes the essence of the game and packs it in a format where you can have just as much action in ten minutes. Taking the full court away removes the transition aspect of the game and lets you focus on the parts where the scoring happens. Basketball clicks into high voltage in the open court. The most flashy aspects of the game are often showcased during fast breaks, pressuring the opponents into turnovers and taking it coast to coast heedless of running plays, just improvising on the break. While that part of the game is taken out, its more than made up for by the increased number of plays happening in the half court. All you have to do after changing possession by a defensive rebound is clear the ball from the three point line. And you’re back in the offense again.
There’s a lot for fans looking for competitive action. At the same time there are fun activities to spread the love of the game. From three point shootouts and free throw line relays to other attractions, there are events which tiny tots like the one below can participate in:
If I had a choice to attend a fun carnival like this NBA 3X vs a day of state level basketball everyday, I would go for the latter. And the stands there would be sparsely filled. If I had to take friends and family along with me, I’d go for the former. The latter is to whet the appetite of the hoop addict in me, while the former balloons the fun part of basketball and lets everyone enjoy the spirit of the game.
If the former is as rare a sight as it is, I’d always go for the former. The uninitiated always look at basketball as something which is over-complicated with too many rules and a steep learning curve. Carnivals like this one show the fun side of it while allowing basketball fans to participate in competitive hoops action.
Mostly it adds a great touch of glamour to a sport which really needs it in India.
The next of these events is on 13-14 October in Chennai at the Besant Nagar Beach.