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NBA’s in town today; basketball’s indie movement not far behind

Written by Shivani Naik for the April 8th edition of The Indian Express

Mumbai, India – Numerous rings hanging from peeling basketball boards in tucked-away corners of schools and playing grounds across Delhi and its outskirts – many rusting red.  And in Mumbai, Indian hoopster hero Abbas Moontasir’s effervescent mind that ticks and talks away impressively about NBA’s legendary Larry Bird – showing no signs of rust, neither despair.  Neel Pahlajani couldn’t have expected sights and sounds, so stark in contrast, when he landed in India earlier this year.  Grappling with all the diversity that his land of origin could offer, his Hoops India Movement – a NY-based organization, looking to promote top basketball talent in India, is hoping to bridge the sundry divides between talent and platform, punk-popularity and pro-performance, promising past and pregnant present, which the sport curiously finds itself in, in this nation.

Hosting roadshows, shooting video-clippings of show-dunks performed by baggy-clad Indians, putting them on YouTube and even MTV, and summarily mixing basketball with its natural allies – showbiz and lifestyle, besides pushing for a grassroots program to scout for talent, Hoops India will gladly put its fingers in as varied pies as can be imagined.  An NRI – his parents hail from Indore and Rajasthan – Pahlajani, growing up in distant New York, often wondered why Indians who seemed to be dribbling and shooting and dunking so enthusiastically after setting foot on US shores, could never quite create any sort of buzz while still in India.  “We always spoke in social circles about why India wasnt represented enough in baseball and basketball, and even at the Olympics.  We came here and realized that there’s no lack of talent, they just need  a platform,” he says, with grand plans of tapping into the Mumbai talent-pool in the coming months.

15 cameras and an experimental crew recorded videos of a ‘Jam Session’ in Noida on March 1, when some rank-amateurs from northen India – Delhi, and its neighboring states – part took in the event, with a Slam Dunk Contest, 3 Point Shootout, Mobile Shoot Around, 3-on-3 Tournament, and Full Court 5-on-5 All Star Game.  Collegians – Indian campuses are known to be high on basketball, though seldom serious – besides a cluth of club players displayed their moves at the Sector 15A Club in March.  This one included Aditya Biswas, who had generated a buzz online after a video surfaced of him jumping over his motorbike and dunking a basketball at an event.  “I’m into broadcasting, and we are exploring opportunities to  air and mass distribute our footage,” Pahlajani says.  “We eventually want to take Indian players to clubs in Europe – Spain and Italy.  It’s sad that NBA’s had representation from 40 countries, but not even one Indian is close to playing there,”  he adds.

Having landed in Mumbai – India’s entertainment capital, with its thick Bollywood presence – Hoops India’s plans for the city revolve around roping in celebrities, with their faintly-known basketball associations, for a special celebrity match on April 19th.

The NBA lands in the city on Wednesday – toplining legend AC Green.  But with their own visual overdrive and plans to hold events across Bangalore, Pune, and Calcutta, besides arranging for coaching expertise and training kids for clubs, schools, and various centers, Hoops India is hoping to enter India simultaneously and create a buzz.

“Plans are varied.  We’ll get into agreements with facilities like YMCA, host camps and workshops, bring in celebrities and corporates and diplomats into development of the game.  While it’ll be fundamentals for school kids, we’ll also look to generate bright content and make basketball events a fun place for the youth to be at,” Pahlajani says.

Not quite bursting with funds, and operating on their own by and large, Hoops India will piggyback a leading sports-good major on a country-wide tour, and track down public figures – recognizable faces – who play the game recreationally and passionately, to start a movement for the sport.

With no current affiliations with BFI, Hoops India wants to dabble around and spread its wings on its own, but is not averse to collaborating with the existing set up.  BFI president Harish Sharma – who hopes to start a pro-league soon – has also said that all help from any quarter is welcome, if it leads to promoting the game.  The sport – not without its share of false starts over the years, though – attempts another take-off.

While the NBA’s initiative to re-lay turfs in Mumbai will kickstart at Nagpada and get the basketball rock-show started, Hoops India is tuning up for its own indie gigs.  And territory, that is largely uncharted.

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6 Responses to “NBA’s in town today; basketball’s indie movement not far behind”

  1. phil says:

    which sports major? who is behind this project??

  2. sheetal says:

    hoops india workshops rock!! :)

  3. sanil says:

    wen will they come to chandigarh side……..??????/

  4. streetz tha balla says:

    ballers have been in here doing their thing but dis thing seems its 4 real, plus dis dude won a battle. bad a$$$

  5. anil says:

    great article, go hoops! i think we can find players who can play and perform well in russian and italian pro leagues . best of luck

  6. Suman says:

    that was indeed awesome man………….
    time is close when BASKETBALL will win over CRICKET…

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