Something unexpected could soon be coming to the NBA. Just like any business, as it grows bigger, expansion possibilities start to be thrown around the boardroom. The NBA is no different and is beginning to give “serious consideration” to a major expansion plan that few might have expected. If everything comes together in just the right way, the next big NBA league could appear in India.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is all for the project. The league is playing exhibition games in India this weekend, and Silver says that he is seriously thinking about the possibility, including whether or not it would be feasible to have something up and running within five years. To do that, though, he admits that there is a lot of work to be done.
“One of the things we need, though, is more of an arena infrastructure,” Silver said. “I think this is where [Sacramento Kings owner] Vivek [Ranadive] was a little ahead of the schedule that we might otherwise have been on. This is a fantastic facility we’re in today, but it required us bringing in a court, a scoreboard, seats, locker rooms. And it’s relatively small, certainly by NBA standards.”
The work necessary became evident when the Sacramento Kings took on the Indiana Pacers Friday in what was the first time an NBA game has been held in India. In order to make the necessary arrangements, the stadium, NSCI Dome, had to be outfitted with additional seats, huge video screens, better lighting and much more.
“I have had some interesting discussions with developers over the last two days here,” Silver said. “I think it’s inevitable that there will be state-of-the-art arenas in major cities in India, in part because these are multi-use facilities and live entertainment is increasingly important here as well. Of course, a great arena can have concerts and other shows. But we do need to see those arenas over time in order to play more games.”
It’s not too surprising that Ranadive would want to see such an endeavor in India. He’s originally from Mumbai and is more than happy to support any initiative that would lead to an official NBA appearance in the country. He has already been in discussions with the country’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and thinks India is ready.
“It’s a game that can be played in cities and villages,” Ranadive said. “It can be played inside, outside, by boys, by girls, one person, a few people, rich, poor. It doesn’t matter. What I see happening, is that within the next 10 years, this game, it’ll never surpass cricket as the national pastime, but it’ll be right up there. And hopefully … we can launch a league right here in India.”
The NBA is also looking at expansion possibilities in another country and this effort is much further along. The league is ready to start its Basketball Africa League next year as the first internationally sanctioned professional basketball league outside of North America.
As far as what may lie ahead for India, Silver will continue to monitor the situation, discuss it with league executives and, if the time is right, move forward with a launch. In the meantime, he predicts that Indian players may start to appear in North America in both the NBA and the WNBA.
“I think our two most immediate goals are; one, to see the development of some top-tier talent coming out of India and into the NBA and WNBA,” Silver said. “And, two, serious consideration of the launch of a league. I hope that within five years we have an Indian player in the NBA. And I think for serious consideration of a league, I’d use that same timing.”