'All of us are pumped' - Fans react to India's first NBA pre-season game

Students undergo training drills at the NBA Academy in Greater Noida. NBA India

The NBA announced on Thursday that they would play a pre-season game in India for the first time next year with the Sacramento Kings and the Indiana Pacers facing off in October 2019 in Mumbai.

ESPN asked a few fans and people in the Indian basketball community on what they thought about the announcement. Here's what they had to say...1

Were you excited when the news broke?

Shiba Maggon, 41, head coach of the Indian women's basketball team, ex- India international, currently fan of the Golden State Warriors

I was excited. I used to wait, always, for the games to be on TV and now you get to see it live. Especially right now, where the tempo in Indian basketball is going up, bringing NBA games to India will definitely help the game to grow here.

Darshan Naik, 30, working professional, San Antonio Spurs fan

I got excited initially, but I wanted Spurs or the Lakers to come (laughs). I know those teams better. I know a few people in these teams (Kings, Pacers) but I wasn't as excited to see it was them. You'd expect only some teams to have a full house -- like the Golden State Warriors, or the Lakers.

GopalaKrishnan R, 29, Basketball media professional and founder of ekalavyas.com, currently fan of the Boston Celtics

Yes! This is one of those things - a basketball related announcement that gets you really excited. For someone like me who works full-time in basketball, you are actually thinking 'how do I get involved?' there is a fear of missing out. 'What do I do?' So, this is huge. I'm also excited in terms of what they are going to do with the facilities. I'm excited as to how the experience is going to be and how it's going to compare with the experience in the actual NBA arenas in the US. Just the vibe, the energy.

Adarsh Dadala Rao, 23, working professional, L.A Lakers fan

Yes! There was this notification drop down in the NBA app and then there were 15 messages on my basketball group. It just blew up on my internet. As soon as this happened, I said this has to go out. I put it on my Instagram, and on my FB and the whole day all of us in my basketball community were talking about the game and yes, it was pretty exciting. We knew something was going to happen, but we didn't know that it would be like a proper game.

Would you have liked anything to be different?


This is just the start, since the NBA has a base in Mumbai, they are starting there, but I'm sure in the future whenever they do the games again, they would do it in the other cities. The metro cities are a better option, it may not have picked up in a smaller city.

I would like more teams to travel. The Sacramento Kings have an NRI owner, that's maybe the reason for them to come here. But we all would like to watch Lebron James, the Golden State Warriors, [Russell] Westbrook and these players. That would be more exciting, and more of the community will be involved. Then, you know, the people who play basketball will understand you can make a career out of it.


Slightly outrageous, but I would have loved to have an All-star game (laughs). All the stars and even maybe a retired player. We know them; they are all stars, so I think that would have been huge. Someone like [Dwayne] Wade, and Kobe Bryant coming and playing. I would have been more excited about that. I would also maybe have liked to see a better team. Because people will definitely go to watch that.


Honestly, no. In Mumbai, I think they can tap into the film industry, the entertainment industry. Like the Lakers. It's why they are such a popular team, because at the front you have the likes of Jack Nicholson et al. It's a spectacle. It makes sense for them to have it in Bombay.

And I'm of that school of thought that thinks, 'you can't be greedy' (laughs). Someone said to me "this is only pre-season". And I replied 'It's a progression and the Kings have been playing better. The Pacers are very good. It's fine, honestly you are nitpicking'.

Actually the main thing is, how many more after this? Does this mean every year they are going to do this?


I think the Kings are going to relate to an Indian fan base because we have seen their Bollywood nights and all of that. And the owner, Vivek Ranadive, was pretty warm towards the Indian community. I love that the Pacers are coming too, but obviously I would have loved the Lakers or an All-Star team that was coming too.

I'm still happy, though. I would love to see some of the commentators also come. Obviously, the NBA is spreading its market in India so it makes sense for them to bring in the exact atmosphere here in India. See how the crowd react. Pretty excited for that.

Do you think it will help NBA's presence in India?


Definitely. I have been coaching in the grassroots levels in India -- when I try to teach them some skills and they don't do it properly, I have to take the names of Steph Curry and Lebron James, and explain how they made a crossover, for example, and say 'this is how they do it'. I give them an example and tell them this is a general routine for them, it helps them and they start taking an interest in it.

They look at them as idols, and I'm sure the youngsters would love to watch them. Now when they get to see them live, then it will have a greater impact on them. Even if they don't go to watch them, it will still inspire them to pick up a ball and start playing.


I think many might pick up basketball because of this. I started playing basketball because I started watching Spurs while I was in 8th grade. Their peak 2004-06 seasons, when I watched almost most of the matches, with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, playing the beautiful game.


For sure. This is one of those big-ticket moves. I thought they were going to announce Amjyot [Singh] has got a 10-day contract (laughs). So outside of an Indian player making to any NBA team, I think this is probably the biggest development that is possible for India.

Apart from, I would say, getting Kobe, or Lebron, or [Michael] Jordan come to India. Kevin Durant came (in July last year) but he is not a crossover celebrity. Maybe a five-year-later Durant would be on that level. You want someone to tap into the non-basketball audience.


Definitely. Apart from the NBA Academy and the junior academy, for the actual NBA to be present in India is brilliant. I think with the involvement of Bollywood and the involvement of something that represents Indian culture, this will just blow up. Especially at this time, when India is growing its street culture in basketball.

To have the NBA visit us and to have all the fans look at what exactly an NBA level game looks like is great. I think this will be the first experience for any Indian who hasn't been abroad, to come to watch what it is exactly like in real. When you see a player running across the court in 3.6 seconds it's pretty crazy and that's something no one in India would have witnessed.

And finally, would you go to watch the game? If you do, what would you expect from it?


Yes, I would love to go to the game. If I am with the national team at that time, I won't get an off. But if I'm free, I'm going to book the tickets for the game. In pre-season games, teams like to see what works for them, test different strategies, and what's going to work in the regular season, so for me watching them and understanding them, watching it live is something very different. And that feeling I can only tell you better when I actually finish watching them.


If it was in Bangalore, (where he stays) definitely (laughs). Not outside. If I was there, I hope to see their main players playing atleast. I would like to see their starters playing, from both teams so the game will be competitive. A proper pre-season game, you know.


The moment this was announced, I registered myself on the website that will provide regular updates on this. I went to BookMyShow (a ticketing website), started searching for tickets, and only found out later that they are only going to announce it in a while.

Of course, I would love to go. The highest level of basketball I have seen is at the FIBA level. This is supposed to be on another level altogether. So I just want to see this from a pure basketball standpoint. It's watching the best athletes in the world. I'm not going for the crowd or the environment. I'm just going to see in person, athletes who are among the top 100 players in the world. That's another level of basketball itself, so I'm excited.


You won't believe it, you might find this a little exaggerated, but I pulled up my 2019 calendar at work and I've blocked the entire week and also made arrangements in Mumbai. I called up my friends and told them that I'm going to drop by and we are definitely doing this. All of us are pretty pumped. We will be definitely saddened if we don't get the tickets but we are making the trip to Mumbai for sure. It's going to take less than 10 minutes for the whole thing to get sold out. I heard there will be only 1500 seats and it will be gone in the blink of an eye. Everyone is already making plans to go to Mumbai and anything else in October is cancelled for sure.

If I am there, I would like to see a showcase of the talent, like a real-life experience of an NBA game. Because we have never been to a game, haven't seen a game at such a high competitive level of basketball. I'm also excited to see what they have planned for the half-time show. I hope it's not something too comically Indian. I hope no one turns up with a turban and starts doing the bhangra and instead we see everything that will represent Indian culture and the basketball culture. Cards that say 'Namaste' from the crowd, I would definitely love that.