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Introduction of better leagues will help Indian Basketball | By Divya Singh

Introduction of better leagues will help Indian Basketball | By Divya Singh

Divya Singh

Published: 6 Sep 2018 1:09 PM GMT
The past decade has been a crucial one for Indian sports. In fact, it might just be the most significant 10-year period in the history of Indian sports. The reason is simple, the last ten years have shown us exactly how to help a sidelined sport in India (which is everything other than Cricket!). The answer to this problem has been putting in money to create a well-structured league system. So far, many sports have gone through this regimen, such as Football, Table Tennis, Badminton, Hockey, Kabaddi, and of course, Cricket.

India does have a prevailing league system for Basketball. Sadly, it is not as effective as it was meant to be.

The United Basketball Alliance was established in 2015. Its goal was simple- to make Basketball more popular in India than it had been before. And like the leagues that came before, UBA began with eight teams. Those eight teams- Mumbai, Haryana, Pune, Punjab, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad- were separated into two groups of four. The two divisions- North and South- were in accordance with the widely popular 'Conference' system of the NBA. UBA was supposed to be the start of something special. And while it did present Basketball lovers with an unmatched opportunity, it failed to capture a widespread appeal. The truth remains, that while other marginalised sports in India are making their way towards the limelight, Basketball is one which has been left behind. There have been attempts to connect India to the Game by bringing in Ballers from the United States of America for a visit. Former Lakers star Brook Lopez visited India in the past few months, as did WNBA star Ebony Hoffman. Several other notable influencers came and went in a bid to improve India's connect with the sport. In doing so, Indian Basketball was indeed presented with greater opportunities. However, the widespread appeal which the sport lacks was left untouched. Therefore, Basketball's situation in India is something that cannot be fixed from the outside. It only gets fixed from the inside.

What it needs is commercialisation, aka, the 'League' system.

Eleven years ago, some of the great minds of the sporting facility came up with an idea to make cricket even more popular in India. Hence, the Indian Premier League was formed. IPL's motive was simple- to bring an entertainment factor to the sport while allowing more opportunities for budding sportsmen. To say it worked is an understatement. In fact, the simple idea developed into a massive snowball that engulfed every other 'league' in its way. Eleven years later, IPL is the biggest cricket league in the world and has set a precedent for others to follow. As a result, various other sports (Football, Badminton, Table Tennis, Kabaddi, Hockey, etc.) have come up with leagues of their own. Those leagues, in turn, have helped these sports grow.
Therefore, it is only fair to say that Basketball needs an 'IPL like revolution'.
I understand, however, that many of you would say that the sport itself is nowhere near as big in terms of popularity, as others. However, as someone who has been both a player and has worked closely with Basketball for years, I would say the reality is quite opposite. Indian Basketball is a sleeping giant. It is sport whose International Leagues (NBA) are followed by many in the country and yet the Indian variant (UBA) is not given much attention; a situation, in which a lot of other sports find themselves as well. Seeing the potential in India, NBA themselves have been engulfed in unearthing the same. Their presence in India has been a big positive for Basketball over the past few years. NBA's presence has also provided us with an amazing opportunity to invest heavily in the sport and create a new structure for its development. Now, all we need is to take action. Of course, just launching a new league would not solve all the problems that Basketball faces today. But that would definitely be the first step in the right direction. Achieve this, and the possibilities are endless. The investment required for such leagues is a lot. However, that investment is in turn directed towards making the sport more audience-friendly.

Cricket did it, Football did it, even Kabaddi did it! So why can't Basketball?

A well-structured league system does not only help in engaging audiences, it has other benefits as well. Mainly, it helps in providing better opportunities for both youngsters and seasoned Ballers. Moreover, probably the biggest effect it will have is provide financial stability to players of India. You see, most of the demographics in this country ensures that our athletes hail from either rural areas or middle class backgrounds at best. At the moment, a career in sport does not seem like the viable choice if you view it objectively. The journey is hard and long and, at the end of it, you're not even guaranteed a job or an income. In addition to structuralising the sport in India, the promise of financial security will do wonders not just in encouraging players but in encouraging coaches and other support staff as well. The minute you get to be associated with some high-class sporting action, you automatically catch the eye of the right people. Going forward, this structuralisation can definitely help. The key to cracking the code here and ensuring that the game does indeed reach the masses is to start young. There can be no better example here than the
National Collegiate Athletic Association
, or as we Indians better know it, the NCAA. University sport, for the longest time, has been highly beneficial for different sports. Hockey is a shining example of that. If you look at the Golden period of Indian Hockey, you'll find a major reason behind the sheer number of brilliant players on the national level was a feasible structure and rigourous inter-university leagues. In India, the Association of Indian Universities has brilliant infrastructure and scope but sadly, they're limited to a few academies. Imagine what will happen if a better system is in place. Of course, all of this requires money which is something, India, in its capacity as a developing country must take into account. Corporate Funding is the need of the hour now more than ever. I do believe that the introduction of newer and better leagues will help the sport grow. After all, it has done so in the past. But the window of opportunity for the same is short and we need to take action now.
Also read: Time for India to take notice of Basketball | By Divya Singh
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