Basketball superstar

Can the NBA find a basketball superstar in India?

It is, Ranadivé believes, the perfect sport for India. “I won’t be greedy saying that we are going to replace cricket as a national pastime,” he said. “But I’ll be greedy and say we’ll become a No. 2 Fort.”

[Read a profile of Vivek Ranadivé.]

When Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, started working full time for the league, he was a 30-year-old lawyer whose first assignment was to draft a position paper on the Dream Team. It was 1992, and the US men’s Olympic basketball team, whose stars included Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, were set to make a splash at the Barcelona Summer Games. At the time, the NBA was reluctant to allow its American stars to compete in the Olympics, but Silver argued that it was better not only for the NBA but also for the sport. As Silver rose to the top of the NBA hierarchy, he noticed that two phenomena tended to explain the interest of young international players in basketball. One was the Dream Team. The other was Michael Jordan videos. The lessons he learned from this observation have become accepted wisdom: expanding the global reach of the NBA is as much about selling individual stars as it is about selling the sport itself.

In the nearly three decades since the Dream Team won the gold medal, the NBA has grown into an increasingly international league, with about a quarter of its players coming from outside the United States, against less than 5% at the time of Barcelona. Olympic Games. Last season highlighted how global the NBA has become. The Toronto Raptors were the first team from outside the United States to win a championship, and international players have all but wiped out the end-of-season awards. The MVP was Giannis Antetokounmpo, born in Greece to Nigerian immigrants. Rookie of the Year was Luka Doncic, originally from Slovenia and whose game flourished in Spain. Defensive player of the year was Rudy Gobert of France and most improved player was Pascal Siakam of Cameroon. That same month, Rui Hachimura became the first Japanese player selected in the first round of the NBA draft.

References like these show how far the league has gone from the days when Silver’s predecessor as commissioner, David Stern, shipped videotapes to Italy in the 1980s so that recorded matches could be broadcast. a week later. The international push lasted for decades. In 1987, at the McDonald’s Open in Milwaukee, the Soviet national team faced the Milwaukee Bucks and a professional Italian team. The following year, the Atlanta Hawks, then owned by Ted Turner, toured the Soviet Union. The first overseas regular-season games followed in 1990, when the Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz met twice in Tokyo. The league now hosts regular season matches in cities like London and Mexico City, and preseason matches around the world – in China, Spain, the Philippines, Brazil. The growth of the NBA abroad is particularly striking when contrasted with that of the NFL, an older league which, despite its own efforts to attract an international audience, has yet to gain a lasting foothold abroad. . Major League Baseball has found an following in Latin America and parts of Asia, but its spread has not been so fast and wide.

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