India to host NBA pre-season games for first time


NBA commissioner Adam Silver talks with Sacramento Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

The NBA is expanding its range to India.

The Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings will play two 2019 pre-season games in the city of Mumbai in October, the league announced on Thursday. This will be the first time any North American sports league hosts games in the country.

The league has had a full-time office in Mumbai since 2011, and also plans to bring fan activities, NBA youth basketball programs and NBA Cares community events to the city as part of the NBA India Games 2019 event.

“The Sacramento Kings are proud to be playing in the first NBA games ever held in India,” said Kings owner and chairman, Vivek Ranadive, in a press release.

“As an Indian-American, it is an honour to help bring this historic moment to the country where I was raised. The sport is experiencing tremendous growth in India and we are excited about continuing to expand the NBA’s reach to fans across the globe. The world wants to watch basketball and India is a fast-growing new frontier.”

Widening its international range has been of the utmost priority to the NBA for a while.

Global games have been a part of the NBA schedule as early as 1984, as teams have played pre-season and regular-season games in 12 different countries. There are 108 international players from 42 nations on the 2018-19 rosters. Since 2006, more than 35 current and former NBA and WNBA players have been to India on league visits.

This past May, the NBA hosted a Basketball Without Borders camp to India, with players like Canadians Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell and Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert acting as coaches to kids who are part of the league academy.

In the summer of 2017, Golden State Warriors all-star Kevin Durant took a three-day trip to India and held a practice session for the Junior NBA program athletes in New Delhi.

The league has also recently deployed multiple resources for youth programs in Africa and Latin America.

The Pacers and Kings will face off on Oct. 4 and 5 with ticket sales dates and prices yet to be determined.

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