It is difficult to mourn a person’s death when you’d rather remember his/her life. And Harish Sharma, the visionary leader of Indian Basketball, certainly led a memorable life.
Sharma, the CEO of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), passed away late last night (Friday, February 10th) in New Delhi. He was only 53 years old. It was an unexpected end to the life of a man who led basketball in India from its helm for over a decade, helping the sport evolve in the country through his great ambition and his vision.
Born on December 28th, 1958, Sharma was also a former basketball player and represented the Indian National Basketball team in the 70s. He was appointed as Secretary-General of the BFI 11 years ago and has served as BFI’s CEO for one year. Sharma was also the Secretary-General of FIBA Middle-Asia Zone and the Secretary of the Delhi Basketball Association.
During his time as the Secretary-General and then the CEO of the BFI, Sharma helped bring better organisation to national tournaments around the country and secure several international relationships for basketball in India, including crucially with the NBA. But his most important contribution was helping the BFI sign a 30-year deal with IMG-Reliance to sponsor, support, and promote Indian Basketball two years ago. Ever since, there have been rapid improvements to basketball events across the country.
Over the last two years, Sharma with IMG welcomed several renowned foreign coaches to lead India’s national teams, including current coaches Kenny Natt, Pete Gaudet, and Zak Penwell, and former coaches Bill Harris and Tamika Raymond. BFI and IMG-Reliance were also involved in helping to send eight Indian youngsters on scholarship to the IMG Basketball Academy in the US.
Sharma was heavily involved in travelling across the country to look for more and better basketball destinations and promoting the game in newer places. He had a reputation for being dynamic in his style and always thinking ahead when it came to ideas and inspiration.
On a personal note: Sharma realised the importance of promoting the BFI via the web and amongst the media. I first interviewed him for my blog nearly two years ago about the future of basketball in India, and soon after, it was him who personally offered me the job to write for the BFI. I will forever be grateful to him for giving me that opportunity.
My condolences go out to Mr. Sharma’s family and his close friends. His demise will be gravely mourned by basketball players, coaches, fans, and those who have worked closely with him over the years.
Moving forward, I wish that basketball in India can find a leader who can replicate Sharma’s influence and energy and be able to fulfil the dreams that he envisioned for the game here.