India’s All Star Weekend: Basketball stars shine on courts dedicated to Harish Sharma
If you were an outsider to India’s hoop universe looking for a weekend crash course to everything in Indian Basketball, then the last couple of days in Mumbai were your chance: Over three dozen of the most talented and famous Men and Women Indian basketball players descended to the Mastan YMCA basketball courts in Nagpada for the 3rd Indian Basketball All Star Showcase, held from May 3rd-5th.
Lucky fans who attended the festivities got a chance to get closer to their favourite players, watch them compete in exciting shooting and dunking competitions, and enjoy exciting All Star Games to cap off the weekend, which was organised by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) & the Maharashtra State Basketball Association (MSBA).
The weekend was also an opportunity for the BFI to join hands with the NBA in dedicating two refurbished basketball courts at the Mastan YMCA in memory of Harish Sharma, the former Secretary-General and CEO of the BFI. The new ‘Harish Sharma’ courts were unveiled officially on May 5th in the presence of BFI’s current CEO and Harish Sharma’s wife Roopam Sharma.
“Harish Sharma had a true vision for developing basketball in India and his success is evident in the rapid growth that our sport is experiencing in the country,” said Heidi Ueberroth, NBA President, International. “He was a champion of the game, a huge supporter of the NBA and a close friend to many at the league. We hope these refurbished courts will contribute to the great legacy he left behind.”
“To dedicate these basketball courts to Harish Sharma is an honour and indeed a befitting tribute to a man who devoted his life to promote the game,” said Roopam Sharma. “All of us in the basketball fraternity must remain committed to fulfilling his dreams and work with the same level of enthusiasm and sincerity to further develop the game. Harish had set the benchmark to increase the level of basketball and we must strive to reach these goals to bring the game up to international standards.”
The Mastan YMCA courts were chosen to honour Sharma’s memory due to its historical significance to basketball in India and the positive impact it has made on the local community. Mastan YMCA is more than 80 years old and has produced several national team basketball players over the years. Sharma had a strong relationship with the site and provided great support for all events held there. Hundreds of youth play and receive basketball training at Mastan YMCA daily and the newly refurbished courts will provide them a safe place to play and ensure the sport continues to grow in the community.
In addition to the court refurbishments, the NBA is also honouring Sharma with a patch with his initials on jerseys for the NBA’s Basketball without Borders Asia camp this summer.
After a photo-session for the players selected for the All Star game on Thursday, the action switched to full gear on Friday evening, with the three-point and slam dunk competitions. Adding to the flavour of some of the best-known names in Indian basketball – Geethu Anna Jose, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Prashanti Singh, Trideep Rai, Akanksha Singh – were three specially invited players from the US and Canada at the event: Titus Robinson, Scott Stewart, and Jason Falkner.
The slam dunk competition was the highlight of the evening, in which Falkner, Robinson, Bhriguvanshi, and Yadwinder Singh participated. The final came down to the two foreign players and closely edged out by Robinson, who won a cash prize of Rs. 10,000.
The main events of the weekend were held on Saturday, May 5th, soon after the official opening ceremony of the new Harish Sharma courts by the NBA. The first game was a close Women’s contest. EAST led 22-19 at halftime, and the second half remain competitive till the very end. The game came down to the last minute and the EAST team survived for a 49-45 victory. Anitha Paul Durai was the star of the show, netting 20 points.
The Men’s game was a close contest, too. Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Titus Robinson were on fire for the WEST team, while Jason Falkner did most of the damage for the EAST. EAST led the first half by 12 points, but the WEST made a comeback to tie the game at 65 at the end of regulation. The game headed into overtime, where the WEST team continued their incredible comeback by playing tough end-to-end defence and outscoring the EAST 13-2 for a 78-67 victory.
Bhriguvanshi was named player of the game in the Men’s All Star contest.