India’s love, or obsession, as some call it, with basketball has increased over the last decade. The popularity of high-octane sport culminated in the establishment of the United Basketball Alliance (UBA), India’s only professional men’s basketball league.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has seen the rise in popularity of the sport in India and began sending teams across to play preseason and regular season games. The opportunity to witness NBA icons playing in India will no doubt heighten the popularity and lead to more children wanting to play basketball in the future. If basketball was loved before, it became an obsession when the first ever NBA game played in India took place in 2019, a game that saw Indiana Pacers triumph over the Sacramento Kings.
According to the local website Sportsbetting India, the NBA event in India may even explain the betting boom that the country has witnessed in recent years as more offshore sports betting operators have increased their focus on India. By allowing bets in Indian Rupees these sites have become highly attractive to Indian basketball fans to place wagers on both UBA and NBA games. With the NBA taking place from October to April, and the UBA throughout July, there are plenty of opportunities to make bets on these games all year round.
Players of Indian Descent in the NBA
There has been some outstanding basketball talent from India over recent years, with standout performances for professional teams across Asia and for the Indian National team. However, only 1 player has made it all the way to the NBA, whilst a handful of others are still fighting for their chance in the NBA G-League. These players will be discussed below.
The most notable Indian basketball player is Sim Bhullar. Born in Toronto following his parents’ migration from the state of Punjab, he became the first Indian player to play in an NBA game, representing the Sacramento Kings against Utah Jazz in 2015. He was also the first Indian player to score points in the NBA, recording 2 points in the same game against the Jazz. Sim went undrafted in the 2014 NBA draft, but was signed to the Reno Bighorns, the NBA G-League affiliate of the Kings, following a successful summer league try-out. Following that historic 2014-2015 season, Sim moved on to play for the Raptors 905, the NBA G-League affiliate of the Toronto Raptors, before landing in China, where he is currently playing for Guangxi Weizhuang.
Another historic Indian basketball player is Satnam Singh. Satnam made history when he became the first Indian player to be selected in an NBA draft. He went 52nd overall to the Dallas Mavericks. Satnam did not make the starting roster for the Mavericks that year and went on to play for their NBA G-League affiliate team, Texas Legends. Satnam spent 2 years playing for the Legends, before relocating to Canada and applying his expertise for the St. John Edge in the National Basketball League of Canada. Unfortunately, the career may be over for Satnam Sing as he was handed a two-year doping ban by the National Anti-Doping Agency in December of 2020.
There are 2 more Indian basketball players who are still in the hunt for their dream NBA start:
- Amjyot Singh – he has played for 2 teams in the NBA G-League, Oklahoma City Blues from 2017-2018, and Wisconsin Herd, where he is still playing.
- Palpreet Singh – he was drafted by the Long Island Nets in the 2016 NBA Development League Draft, where he is still playing and looking for the call up to the NBA affiliate Brooklyn Nets.
United Basketball Alliance (UBA)
The UBA was founded back in 2015, and it is the only men’s professional basketball league in India. The UBA was formed to heighten the popularity and competitive basketball across the country. The league now comprises 8 teams that span both northern and southern India. The north division includes Haryana Gold, Punjab Steelers, Delhi Capitals and the Mumbai Challengers. The south division comprises Pune Peshwas, Bengaluru Beast, Chennai Slam and the Hyderabad Sky. The UBA is contested every year in July, and the Chennai Slam are leading the way with 2 championships in the 4 seasons thus far.
The UBA has also held pro training camps in the United States to help further develop the best players in the UBA. They are able to attend world-class training facilities and be mentored by some of the best coaches in the US. This is an exciting venture for the UBA players, as they could gain exposure to teams across the US and also bring back valuable knowledge and techniques to their UBA teams.
The hope is for the UBA to undergo an expansion which would include many more teams joining the league, giving more players the opportunity to play competitive basketball and gain recognition for their talent worldwide.
As the basketball infrastructure in India continues to grow, we hope to see many more players representing India in the NBA going forward. Anyone interested in the topic should watch the documentary “The history of the FIBA basketball world cup” released in 2019 about the history of basketball outside of North America.