Gurgaon: Visiting American basketball legend Bruce Bowen says basketball has the potential to be counted among popular sports in India like cricket or football.
"This is a situation where you give children another option. I know cricket is number one here, then football, so it is not to alleviate basketball into the number one sport but let's give them another option," the former NBA star told PTI.
The 6 feet 7 inches basketball giant who is a three time NBA (America's professional basketball league)champion for the San Antonio Spurs was on his first visit to India recently.
Being aware of the sports trend of the country, the 43 year-old said he has kept an open mind with no expectations for his tour.
"This is my first time in India, so I'm new to the process. I think sometimes when you have expectations, it never amounts to what you expect, when you keep a free mind, you accept everything and you are fine," he said on the sidelines of a basketball event hosted by NBA India and Sony Six.
The popular American sport basketball may not enjoy mass popularity in India but Bowen believes the need is to make people aware of the opportunity basketball can provide.
"First let these folks know, they have opportunity here, specially the kids, getting them involved, with the enthusiasm they have, it's possible. It started the same way for me. It is not about... Oh! We don't have it right now, if there are kids involved and you start it the right way, you can affect their lives," he said.
VJ and actor Rannvijay Singh who is an avid basketball fan and a player himself during his college days has also plunged into the efforts of promoting basketball in India.
"I've played for Rajasthan, I've played for Delhi, Delhi University, went for the U-19 camp, all of that. I wanted to be part of NBA, I wanted to play for them, I wish at that time, in 2000-2003 when I was in college, when I wanted to be a pro basketball player, NBA India was there that time but they weren't."
Today, when I see the kind of potential that our country has, the amount of kids that want to play basketball, the kind for platform they are getting because of NBA India, it's unbelievable. If you are good, u get the right coaching, the right kind of shoes, the right kind of playground, the right kind of supplementation and awareness and you have NBA stars coming down and interacting with you, I'm actually jealous," Rannvijay said.
Rannvijay believes that the lack of opportunity which impeded the popularity of basketball beyond school and college level is rapidly changing.
"Basketball is most attractive sport in school and college. All the girls look out for the basketball boys, they are the coolest boys. The sport is attractive, it is the fastest sport on court and the culture is very cool.
Basketball culture is hip-hop. You don't have to be a basket-baller to enjoy basketball. I think it used to be till college because there was nothing beyond that but now you have NBA India, you have so many programmes and I'm thankful to the brands who are promoting the sport," said Rannvijay, who played for Hansraj College basketball team.
When asked if the ongoing football games in the Indian Super League will pose a hurdle in drawing people towards basketball, the VJ said that the rise of basketball will only go on to add one more sport in the tray of sports lovers to enjoy.
"Did you ever think that Indian Kabaddi League would do so well? Sports is in the human NDA. As soon as you get an opportunity to watch it, experience it, you will. Till the time there is a platform, you don't know what you are missing. With all more and more leagues happening, it is only going to encourage all other sports.
"ISL happening only encourages a badminton league to happen again and a basketball league to happen.
We are a billion people. If kabaddi can be successful then Basketball, you have no idea. It's such a fascinating game, you are in the air, doing different things, it's fast, rapid scoring," he said.
NBA (America's professional basketball league) games were previously aired in India by ESPN and now by Sony Six.