In July, 2017 NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant embarked on his first trip to India to promote interest in basketball and encourage up-and-coming players to pursue their dreams of NBA stardom. During his trip he donated two new basketball courts to the Ramjas Public School in New Delhi under the umbrella of his Kevin Durant Charity Foundation. He also broke a Guinness World Record by holding the world’s largest basketball lesson with 3,459 Indian students. This lesson reached throughout the country, with boys and girls from Bengaluru, Chennai Hyderabad, and Kolkata joining in via satellite connection with their physically present counterparts.
Durant’s visit to India followed closely on the heels of the opening of the NBA’s Academy in Noida, India in May 2017, the site of his record-breaking class. The first program of its kind in the country, it selected 21 male prospective basketball players to take “a holistic, 360-degree approach to player development with focuses on education, leadership, character development and life skills,” as well as have the opportunity to compete at international tournaments and exhibition games. Durant was the first NBA player to visit the academy.
Similarly, in April 2017 the NBA opened its first National Basketball School in Mumbai to male and female players ages 6-18. Partnering with India on Track (IOT), the school will host students for a year-long program that will cover on-court training, conditioning, and basketball education implemented by local coaches with help from the NBA’s International Basketball Operations staff.
The NBA has also partnered with India through its Jr. NBA Program to Promote Health and Fitness, which began in October 2013. Since then the NBA has helped physical education teachers throughout India learn best basketball practices to promote both exercise and interest in basketball. Additionally, the students get to take part in the Jr. NBA city competitions, which only furthers their interest in the program. To date the program has provided training to more than 6 million children and 5,000 instructors.
India also has a presence in the NBA in the United States. In 2015, Satnam Singh Bhamara became the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA. He is currently playing for the Texas Legends, a team in the NBA D League affiliated with the Dallas Mavericks. Canadian Indian Sim Bhullar also garnered fanfare when he became the first Indian to appear in the NBA, with a cameo appearance on the Sacramento Kings.
Sarah Wang is a Project Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington.