NBA-India Joint Partnership Putting Up Numbers

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by Sarah Wang
Retired WNBA player Katie Smith leads children in India through basketball drills. Image: Flickr user U.S. Embassy New Delhi.

Early November saw an influx of physical education teachers congregating at the Dominic Savio School in Andheri, India. A total of 117 teachers from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)-run schools attended the event, a huge increase from the 37 that had attended the previous year. The large turnout reflects the teachers’ determination to coach their teams to victory in the 2014-2015 Jr. NBA city competitions. From November 5-7th, with the help of NBA legend Bruce Bowen, the city competition in Punjab, India saw 87 schools participate in the 5x5 team competition and 145 of the total 150 schools in the Jr. NBA program participate in the 3x3 competition. A few weeks later, city competitions in Kochi, India also saw more than 130 schools participating.

In October, 2013, the National Basketball Association (NBA) joined forces with the Reliance Foundation in India and launched the Jr. NBA Program to Promote Health and Fitness.  Under this program, the NBA and Reliance Foundation set a long term goal of teaching one million Indian children and 2,000 of their coaches and teachers about sportsmanship and teamwork. For the first year, the program focused on schools in Mumbai and Kochi. International coaches traveled to India for three months to take part in the “Train the Trainer” aspect of the program. After providing Indian coaches and physical education teachers with materials such as nets, curriculums, and air pumps, each school held competitions as teams and for individual shooters. The best teams and shooters from each school then took part in city-wide competitions, where NBA stars met with the teams.

The NBA is well placed to make a big impact in India’s sports world. Basketball is second only to cricket in sports program viewership. The Jr. NBA program is helping to strengthen the love of basketball in the country even further, by giving Indian youth the chance to play with their friends and meet professional players. During the first year of the program, it reached 140,000 students from 225 schools and 250 of their coaches. Female students accounted for 40% of all participants. Thanks to the positive feedback given by Indian coaches to their counterparts in other cities, the program is expected to reach 750,000 students and over 1,000 teachers across 1,000 schools for the 2014-2015 year. Six more Indian cities have joined Mumbai and Kochi as locations for the program: Ludhiana, Jalandar, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, and Kottayam.

India’s Jr. NBA program is among good company in Asia. To date, the NBA has partnered with organizations in China, Japan and the Philippines.  There has also been talk about expanding the program to include Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia in the near future.

Sarah Batiuk is the Event Coordinator and a Program Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington.