Kenneth Juster, the United States Ambassador to India, is confident of the NBA turning over a new leaf in Indian sports. The National Basketball Association, US’ basketball giants’, have had a nearly 1-year-long association with India and its presence promises to strengthen with two pre-season games to be held in Mumbai on Friday and Saturday.
The Sacramento Kings will play the Indiana Pacers in back-to-back games at the NSCI Dome on October 4 and 5 and Juster is pumped to see how the experience turns out.
“We hope that the impact will be significant,” he told Times of India in an interview. “I understand that the arena will be filled to capacity on both nights. So there is great anticipation of the games. I think the NBA would tell you that once there is an Indian or Indian-American player in the league, enthusiasm for the sport in India will rise to an even higher level.
“Sacramento’s owner, Vivek Ranadive, was born in Mumbai. The NBA plan for two exhibition games in India has been in the works for several years. I met with the NBA commissioner and the deputy commissioner before I departed from the United States, and they were talking about holding these games.”
As per Juster, the NBA sees India as a great place for expanding its sport, as a potential source for future basketball players, and as a huge potential market.
“Basketball is an appealing sport because you need just a ball and a basket; there is not really any other equipment. You can play alone, or games of one-on-one, two-on-two, and all the way up to the traditional team game of five-on-five. The top professional league, the NBA, has truly become an international league, with the best players from all over the world competing,” Juster said.
As a child, Juster played basketball but he wasn’t tall enough to continue it. A huge New York Knicks fan, Juster attended Willis Reed’s basketball camp in the summer of 1969. Reed was the star center for the Knicks, when they won the championship. However, Knicks’ recent underwhelming performances have kept Juster away from following the sport keenly.
“It is difficult to watch NBA games in India because of the time difference,” Juster said. “Moreover, my team, the New York Knicks, which won two championships when I was younger, has not been doing so well in recent years. But I am still a big basketball fan and certainly try to watch some of the playoff games. One of the qualities that I most enjoy about basketball is the melding of individual skills within the broader framework of the team.”