Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, has said that the basketball league plans to return to India and is focussed on developing the game in the country. Speaking at a press conference ahead of the first of two pre-season games to be held in Abu Dhabi, the NBA’s first foray into the Gulf, Silver also said that sports production and consumption will change more in the next five years than it has in the last 30 years.
“We have plans to come back to India, we have discussed returning there many times,” he said. “It was a great experience when we came to India back in 2019. We can be engaging with fans on all continents with 30 teams in pre-season. What we are focused on is developing the game there. Working with FIBA, more clinics, more academies, better distribution of our games to the increasing fanbase there.”
This season, the NBA went global for the first time in three years, having games in Japan prior to coming to Abu Dhabi. The last time they did so was in 2019, when they came to Mumbai for two games between the Sacramento Kings, partly owned by Indian-born Vivek Randive, and the Indiana Pacers. Silver revealed that having a presence in India remains a major goal for the NBA.
The NBA’s international players like Serbia’s Nicola Jokic and Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo – for both of whom Silver had high words of praise – have played a huge role in the league’s global push. Antetokounmpo, of Greek-Nigerian heritage, is a huge draw for crowds in the Gulf and Mediterranean regions, and is undoubtedly the biggest draw for the Abu Dhabi games.
Silver feels developing world-class players across the globe is crucial to spread the game, and he believes the emergence of France’s Victor Wembanyama is a product of the NBA’s reach. Wembanyama impressed massively when his local club, Metropolitans 92, took on the G League Ignite, an NBA developmental team, in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
“As I am speaking right now, all around the world, there are young boys and girls bouncing basketballs, showing it love. Victor, of course, is a product of that, as a young man who grew up loving basketball. Unlike those of an older generation, games were accessible to him, not just in video tapes, and that’s great,” Silver said.
Viewing personalisation for fans
Silver also spoke about how sports consumption and production is evolving rapidly. “You have to look at this from two different places. One is the distribution of the games. The ease of watching and accessibility of the games,” he said, before mentioning that was the thought process behind NBA’s newly-launched global application.
“Then also the way the games are produced. Through these streaming platforms – and new technology is evolving – it allows us to create new engaging ways in which games can be consumed by our fans.”
Silver went on to explain the kind of changes that may be seen in the way the NBA is experienced, which also may apply to all sports internationally.
“This must allow for more customisation, and more personalisation – if someone wants to track a particular player, see data, chat with friends, or interact with experts. All those things are beginning to happen in sports, but we are just scratching the surface,” he said. “I have been with the NBA for the last 30 years, but in the next five, we are going to see more change than in the last 30, there is that much change happening in the presentation of sports right now.”
The writer is in Abu Dhabi on the invitation of NBA India. Watch Milwaukee Bucks vs Atlanta Hawks in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, October 8, on Sports18 and Voot.