Troy Justice has been the Director of Basketball Operations of NBA in India since January 2010. In the past, he has been involved in basketball as the Executive Director at Anthony Munoz Foundation and of University Planning & Student Life at Cincinnati Christian University; as the Head Coach at Athletes in Action(AiA) and at Gordon College; also as the Athletic Director at Cincinnati Christian University and at AiA. He also played professional basketball at AiA.
He was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions:
Siddarth Sharma: The Mahindra NBA Challenge has expanded to Delhi and Chennai. That’s four of the metro cities in India, from north and south. Can we expect the Challenge to expand to Ahmedabad (west) and Kolkata (east)?
Troy Justice : The Mahindra NBA challenge expanded to five cities, up from three the first season. We also expanded the number of divisions in order to provide more youth the chance to participate. We are very encouraged with the response we have received for the program. The NBA will continue to collaborate with Mahindra and the BFI to build the program – our goal is to have the Mahindra NBA Challenge running in 10 cities in the next 3-5 years.
Siddarth Sharma: Dominique Wilkins, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Kyle Korver. What they have in common is they’ve all visited India. Another thing they have in common is they all tower above the average Indian male. For some people, it reinforces the misconception that you have to be really tall to play basketball. Can we expect a point guard to visit India in the future, just to show that anyone can play at the highest level?
Troy Justice: Yes, and we look forward to continuing to bring NBA and WNBA players and legends to India. Basketball is a great game because anyone can play, it doesn’t matter how tall you are. Baron Davis who plays guard in the NBA was here in 2009.
Siddarth Sharma: Besides the high profile events such the Mahindra NBA Challenge, Basketball without Borders, and coaching clinics, what are the other activities the NBA is involved with in India?
Troy Justice: We are implementing a long-term integrated strategy to grow basketball and the NBA in India. We are growing the NBA by increasing distribution of our content across media platforms, engaging fans through marketing initiatives and having NBA/WNBA players and legends visit the market to interact with local players and coaches. We are growing the game through a variety of grassroots initiatives including – refurbishing courts through NBA Cares to facilitate access to the game, Jr. NBA/WNBA programs designed to grow basketball at the school level, NBA Jam events which have traveled to malls across India to showcase the fun, entertainment side of basketball and we continue to work with the BFI to grow the sport across all levels through clinics and camps.
Siddarth Sharma: One month into the 2010 NBA season, basketball fans in India are still waiting for TV broadcasts. When can we expect to catch the NBA action on our screens? (asked before the announcement of the new deal)
Troy Justice: We recently announced two new television partnerships with Taj Television and Multi Screen Media that will result in a record number of live games, prime-time replays and original programming. The scope and breadth of coverage will be the most comprehensive we have ever had in India. Fans in India can also subscribe to NBA LEAGUE PASS International and watch a full season of live games online and on select mobile devices. Fans can also connect to the NBA through our growing online and social media presence in India. NBA.com/India launched in Dec. 2009 and features one live game streamed per week, local editorial content and will include live fan chats with NBA players.
Siddarth Sharma: Your views on the possibility having a professional basketball league in India.
Troy Justice: A professional basketball league would contribute greatly to the development of basketball in India.
Siddarth Sharma: Your opinion on the skill level and physical condition of the players you have come across in India?
Troy Justice: Regarding skill level there are many natural gifted athletes in every state of India. The opportunity for growth is to continue to teach these athletes the foundational fundamentals and advanced skills of the game of basketball. Regarding physical condition the cardiovascular conditioning is on standard with basketball globally. The biggest opportunity for growth is the development of strength training for basketball players.
India has gifted athletes with natural talent and we believe there is tremendous untapped potential to develop talent and grow the game. That is why we are committed to developing more basketball development programs with our partners, such as BFI and Mahindra, and will continue to bring NBA and WNBA players to India to help teach the fundamentals.
Siddarth Sharma: JD Walsh has been to more states than me and a lot of other Indians. Are there a lot of other such people from the NBA who conduct clinics in India?
Troy Justice: The NBA’s International Basketball Operations group has conducted many clinics in India over the past few years – they conducted over 150 clinics during season 1 of the Mahindra NBA Challenge alone. In addition, NBA All-Stars such as Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic and Pau Gasol of the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers visited India this summer to conduct clinics for players and coaches. The response to these clinics has been overwhelming. We continue to see more demand for basketball programming and look forward to bringing more clinics to India each year.
Siddarth Sharma: What can we expect from the NBA’s involvement in India in the future?
Troy Justice: The NBA has a long-term commitment to develop basketball as the #2 sport in India in the next 5 years. We will continue to collaborate with the BFI to grow the sport across all levels. In addition, we will continue to grow our fan base by increasing distribution of our content and providing these fans the opportunity to engage with the NBA.
I’m thankful to Mr. Justice for his time. Growing up, the NBA used to be something I’d only get to watch on TV or a computer screen. Back then, had I been asked to date the above pic, I’d put it as 2020 at the latest. It all still feels a bit surreal to me, and by all indications and Mr. Justice’s affirmation, things will only get better for basketball in India. I can’t wait to see where we are 5 years from now.