'Fans here don't know how lucky they are' - NBA India Games deliver fireworks

Myles Turner (#33) of the Indiana Pacers blocks a shot against the Sacramento Kings on October 4, 2019 at NSCI Dome in Mumbai, India. Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

When Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner blocked De'Aaron Fox's layup with less than a second to go, it sent the first ever NBA game in India into overtime.

The 3,000 kids in the audience roared in delight -- it meant they would get more basketball to watch. The cheers at that block were louder than those that greeted Sacramento Kings' Yogi Ferrell's buzzer-beating, 27-foot three-pointer at half time.

On debut as it were, the NBA had put on a show no one in attendance would forget anytime soon.

"That is as good as it gets -- fans here don't know how lucky they are," said Matt Asen, a Pacers superfan who travelled to Mumbai with the team for the preseason games. "It's a small arena, so the people are closer to the court, which is a great experience."

Being closer to the court meant fans could see the players up close, and many were surprised at how tall and muscular the players actually are. One among those during Saturday's game was Aakash Mahajan, who had travelled from Belgaum, Karnataka.

"When you see it on TV, you can't fully grasp how big they really are. They all look so huge when you see them in person," said Mahajan. "That, plus how fast the game [is]. It doesn't seem so fast on the TV, the players were really quick on the court tonight," added Suraj, Mahajan's friend who accompanied him. "We were really in awe sometimes. There was a moment when a player crossed the entire length of the court in a few seconds and he finished with a buzzer-beating layup."

Suraj was referring to Edmond Sumner, who sprinted all the way across the court in less than 3.5 seconds to score a bucket at the end of the second quarter during the game.

Mahajan was thrilled to have recorded that moment for his Snapchat stories. "Every time there were 10 seconds left on the game clock or the shot clock, I took out my phone, hoping to get something spectacular. I was really lucky I got that," he said.

There were plenty of moments worthy of social media shares during the two nights -- even when there was no play going on. Mahajan talked about the Indiana Pacers dunk squad, who put on a show doing tricky dunks off trampolines during the time-outs, and gave away freebies with some of the kids they played with.

The dunk squad -- five players who go by their nicknames of Windmill, Lil Foot, Sheep, T-Rex, and 2 Thin -- felt this was one of the best shows they had ever put on. "Our job is to keep up the energy in the stadium, we try to focus on the kids more, you never know when you might make somebody's day," said Windmill, who chose that name because the windmill dunk is his favourite.

Asked about the atmosphere at their first NBA game in India, T-Rex said, "After the first dunk that Lil foot had, I turned to these guys and said, 'This is on!' The stadium was rocking non-stop."

When not dunking, they kept the fans engaged by throwing t-shirts and souvenir basketballs in the crowd. One of the kids who really wanted a t-shirt, but couldn't, was Nirmaan Chamaria, who was at the game with his parents and his sister.

"I'm more of a cricket fan. I only know of the great Michael Jordan from basketball, but my son really wanted to come here," said his father Niraj. "I don't know a lot about basketball, but watching it wasn't really difficult. I like that the game is short."

For fans that knew their basketball, one of the biggest highlights was spotting some legends of the game on the sidelines. If Detlef Schrempf was a part of the Pacers, the Kings had Vlade Divac and Peja Stojaković.

The loudest -- and by far, the longest -- applause, though, was reserved for Larry Bird. Saachi, a fan in a Kings t-shirt, came to the game from Pune, and didn't mind cheering for former Pacers coach Bird. In fact, that was her highlight for the night.

"Biiiiird. Larry Bird," she said. "Larry Bird is here. Watching Larry Bird was unbelievable. I couldn't just control myself."