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Finding Air India

One of the motivations behind founding Hoops India was to give Indians more opportunities to pursue the sport of basketball and a platform to showcase their talent in new and exciting ways. Basketball has quickly become a popular global sport. The world’s most premiere and profitable league, the National Basketball Association (NBA), has been home to players from over 50 countries, including Iran, Ukraine, and Gabon. But no Indian from India, or for that matter no player of Indian-origin from anywhere in the world, has ever played basketball in the NBA.

It is often said that Indians are too short for basketball, too crazy about cricket, or lacking the proper training or adequate infrastracture to succeed at world class levels. I say, yes that all may be true, but…Take No Tension.  We have traditionally been under-repped in many global sports, but lately Indians have been making a name for themselves across the board.

2 Indian-born men, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, were drafted by Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008.  They were discovered in The Million Dollar Arm show, created by sports marketing agent Jeff Bernstein.

There many are others, including Brandon Chillar, who is a US-born Indian currently starting at linebacker for one of the NFL’s most storied franchises, the Green Bay Packers.  For many years Indians have been excelling in professional tennis, with Hyderabad-native Sania Mirza representing all Indian women well since 2002 when she won the girl’s doubles at Wimbledon. Probably the most accomplished player has been Chennai-born Mahesh Bhupathi, as he has won 11 grand slams in tennis and is considered one of the better doubles players of this generation.

We’ve even managed to break into ice hockey by producing one Robin Bawa, NHL right wing!  Mr. Bawa, who was born in the USA, actually ended his career with almost as many minutes spent in the penalty box than out on the ice.  Too much sugar in his chai.

Nevertheless, these athletes, and many others in sports like boxing and gymnastics, prove that Indian men and women do have the innate talent to compete at the highest levels in popular global sports.  Also, of course, India does currently rank 2nd in world in cricket,, and has groomed some of the top players ever to play the sport.

So while we’re the heavy underdog right now in basketball, we should be encouraged by the progress being made in other sports, and enjoy this journey to excellence, this movement towards representation!  With the lessons and blessings of those who boxed out and planted seeds before us, Hoops India is here declaring that the new basketball revolution amongst Indians has begun!

-Neel Pahlajani

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