NBA plans to float pro basketball league in India

Mumbai: United States` National Basketball Association (NBA) is planning to establish a professional league in India, it has been learnt.

NBA Commissioner David Stern has held talks with executives at IMG Worldwide Inc., on the matter, according to reliable sources.

IMG, the New York-based sports-management agency, and Reliance Industries Ltd had formed IMG Reliance in 2010 to develop sports and entertainment in India.

The company has already signed a 30-year contract with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) that allows for the floating of a professional league.

Stern wants to build the NBA brand, as well as the audience for basketball and its ancillary merchandise, outside of North America, the sources said.

Logical outposts are China, where the league has a separate entity to conduct business.

NBA has conducted grassroots events across India for the past two years, and this season there are six games a week shown live on television in the country.

Among the NBA`s marketing partners in India are Adidas, Nike and Coca-Cola.

The league also has a strategic partnership with the Mahindra Group, which backs a community based basketball league.

IMG operates a training academy in Florida, where 29 Indian student-athletes participated in September, 2011, in the joint venture`s inaugural scholarship programme for tennis, basketball and soccer.

Among them was 7-foot (2.1-meter) Punjab teenager Satnam Singh Bhamara, who ESPN magazine says in its January 9 issue, could be India`s version of China`s Yao Ming, who retired during the off season following an NBA All-Star career.