Mumbai, October 3: In a bid to increase the popularity of basketball in India, for the first time two NBA teams -- Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings, will face-off at the NSCI Dome here on Friday and it seems the initiative has already gained the first break as the entire tickets have been sold out. The two-day contest has been actually the driving force by Sacramento Kings' owner Vivek Ranadive, who wants a cricket crazy India to recognize basketball. NBA India Games 2019: Nita Ambani to Present Match Ball to NBA Officials Ahead of Indiana Pacers vs Sacramento Kings Game.
Speaking on the eve of the match, Ranadive said: "I am very excited as I am a Mumbaikar and returning back to a city were I took birth is matter of great happiness. Organising such a great event in hometown and my country is really very special moment for me."
"The contest has a long story behind and I believe in next 10 years we will produce great talents from India who will feature in the NBA. I also feel basketball will be the next most popular sport in India," he added.
"Definitely, cricket is the most popular game in India but I believe basketball will also gain popularity here as it could be played both indoors and outdoors and even in the urban and rural areas. I am confident basketball will become a popular sporting discipline in India," he expressed.
Prior to their new season, the NBA teams compete in pre-season contests and try to figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Meanwhile, Kings' star player Buddy Hield said: "We will try to play our natural game and will look to rectify our mistakes before the 2019-20 season. It is just a pre-season game but we will have to get better with time."
Kings had a decent run in the last edition of the game but failed to make to the play-offs. However, Hield is confident that his team will surely make to the play-offs. "Me and my team both want to be in the play-offs this season. We fumbled in the play-offs last season but this time we aim to enter the play-offs without committing any mistakes. After looking at my team, I feel we can make it."
Significantly, Reliance has also been a major force behind bringing a major basketball event in India. Both NBA and Reliance Foundation have invited around 3,000 students from over 70 schools to witness the game in Mumbai.
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Oct 03, 2019 10:10 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).