You may have heard the story of a father, son and their donkey. If so, just skip this paragraph. For those still here, it goes like this: Dad, donkey and son travel across town, along the way people offer varied opinions on how best to carry or be carried on the donkey, not being able to make up their minds the duo end up losing their ass over a bridge.
They say everyone has an opinion, and they all stink. The problem the family above faced was that there were too many opinions for them to decide the best course of action. It’s a rare issue which doesn’t invite motley of opinions hurtling from all directions. One such issue on which people have a uniform opinion is ‘What would provide the greatest impetus to basketball in India?’ Shout that out loud and you’ll probably hear people around you chant “A professional league!” in unison. Or they’ll warily edge away from you.
We have the national championships, which lasts for a week every year. We have a federation cup and other tournaments. But we lack a league that hops all over the country. Names like Savio cup don’t really ring a bell with a majority of the country’s population. But when you have something that’s organized by the NBA, like the Mahindra NBA Challenge, that will get people’s attention.
Wait a minute. Isn’t that just a recreational league?
We Indians are famous for our hospitality. Athiti devo bhava. Mehman Bhagwan hota hain and so on. So when a basketball team traveled all the way to another state to participate in a tournament, their starters were very hospitably asked to rest their aching legs and allow their bench to play in the finals. The visiting team declined, sometimes people don’t know what’s good for them, so the hosts allegedly pressed the point with a suggestive nudge from a gun, promising undesirable consequences. Away team acquiesced. Guns make convincing arguments.
Incredible, the bench players of the away team made a game of it and hung in till the last minute. Enter the Gun, exit the will to win. The away team then played mannequin defense allowing the home team to pull away.
A gargantuan hurdle in the path of forming a professional basketball league is the politics involved in it. But when the said league is recreational, the politics are minimal. The politics involved vanish when the competition loses the pressure that comes from representing states or established teams. This doesn’t necessarily result in a poor level of competition.
About the Mahindra NBA Challenge
As seen on their Facebook page: “The Mahindra NBA Challenge is a community-based basketball league in India focused on growing basketball participation and promoting healthy, active lifestyles in Indian communities.”
Following pic from the Mahindra NBA Challenge action in Delhi:
Following via a press release, on the second season of Mahindra NBA Challenge:
The Mahindra NBA Challenge is the largest, multi-city, community-based basketball league in India; involving thirty-eight teams of men and women, ages 19 and over. They will receive world-class basketball training in a fun environment and have the chance to compete against each other over the course of six weeks at the Indian Gymkhana and the Ghatkopar YMCA.
The league, conducted in partnership with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), will culminate with a weekend-long celebration of basketball from Feb. 24 to 26 that will engage the community with NBA-style entertainment, musical and dance performances and oncourt basketball contests where fans can win prizes from the NBA and Mahindra.
The weekend will feature an All-Star Game, semi-finals and finals, along with appearances from an NBA Legend and a current WNBA player who will be on hand to crown the champions on Feb. 26. The players will interact with fans and join in the weekend-long celebration.
A fine premise that. Registration of teams is done on a first come first serve basis. They get to play the game they love, interact with NBA and WNBA players, participate in contests and experience entertainment with the NBA brand.
The NBA brand is key here. It is universally recognized. Kids in India who dream of playing in the NBA now have a more tangible goal, to play in the Mahindra NBA Challenge. To make it accessible to kids they have expanded the age divisions to 4, up from 2 from the first season of the Challenge. The divisions are:
-Sub-junior division for ages 12 and 13.
-Youth division for ages 14 to 16
-Junior division for ages 16 to 18.
-Adult division, ages 19 and over.
Jaysankar Menon, an Asian all star and former Indian team caption remarked, “Young players are enthusiastic about basketball, and devoted to it while they are in school and continue to be so through college. But for them to continue to do so after college there ought to be a professional league for them to play.” True, such a league would provide a career opportunity and give the athletes a platform to play at the country’s highest level.
The Mahindra NBA Challenge may not be all that yet, but it’s a great first step.