Indianapolis: The NBA is all set to make its Indian entry with the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings playing two pre-season games in October this year, at the NSCI Dome in Mumbai. The Kings, under the leadership of the NBA’s first Indian-born majority owner and Mumbai-native Vivek Ranadive, are based in Sacramento, California while Indianapolis is home to the Pacers.
Pacers president and Chief Operating Officer Rick Fuson is thrilled about the trip. “It’s exciting to be part of the first NBA games in India. It means a lot for a lot of us,” he told reporters from India ahead of the season game between his side and the Milwaukee Bucks here.
“I have been working on this for over three years, been in touch with Vivek Ranadive and NBA officials. We have been to India and seen the vibrancy for basketball in the country. India has a good history and understanding of the game and has embraced it. We look forward to those two games. It will be a great Saturday and Sunday,” he added.
“In our travelling party, we will have an entertainment group as well, whether it’s our dance team, the dunk one or our mascot Boomer,” Fuson elaborated.
For Fuson, there’s a bit of person touch to the India trip as well. “We have a lot of Indian connect here in Indiana -- a company that has moved its office here... and I have a Mahindra tractor,” he said, adding, “The governor of our state has been in India many, many times in terms of the trade between our countries. I think there would be opportunities for not only basketball but also discussions related to trade, economic and cultural development between us.”
Asked if this would be a one-off affair, Fuson was non-committal. “I have to believe that when you have a first, there’s got to be second, third, fourth and fifth as well. We’ve played in China, Philipphines and London,” he said.
Pacers coach Nate McMillan too was upbeat about playing in India. “I am sure our guys are excited to travel to different countries. We want to try and draw fans in India to the NBA,” he said.
Would he be fielding his best team? “Most likely. It’s going to be somewhere like a regular season,” he said.
McMillan promised top drawer stuff for the fans. “We are exciting team. You are going to see energy and passion. And Sacremento are an up and coming team that plays the game extremely fast,” he said.