NBA players look to open doors for basketball in Mumbai via jr. programme

As part of a junior programme, basketball stars, Seth Curry and Robin Lopez are keen to share their skills with young sports enthusiasts

Even though India isn't traditionally a basketball-playing nation, is interest in the game growing in the country? Seth Curry definitely thinks it does.

The Sacramento Kings point guard believes that it's a matter of showing the sport to more children, getting it out there, and teaching more children to play the game. Robin Lopez, who plays for the New York Knicks, agrees. Both hoopsters are in the city as part of the Mumbai leg of an NBA programme to introduce youngsters to the sport.

Seth Curry of The Sacramento Kings
Seth Curry of The Sacramento Kings

The NBA Junior programme is their worldwide grassroots-level initiative that includes teaching local coaches across global cities. They conduct clinics, and interactions with kids in different cities across countries to promote basketball. They are also involved in teaching children in local schools the rules and techniques of the game. In the 2015-16 season, they organised camps and workshops across 60 Mumbai schools that included SIES Dadar and St Dominic Savio High School, Andheri.

In fact, their officials tell us that a few Mumbai kids were anonymously scouted and selected for the national camp to be held in Noida this year. Currently, Lopez and Curry are here to get a taste of the programme. Lopez likes that the best part about working with the NBA outside the league is that they get to work with kids, "We want to share our love for basketball with them (children), but beyond that, it's all about sharing our love for sports as well."

Brothers on court
What we found engaging was that both Curry and Lopez have brothers playing for rival teams in the league. Seth's brother, Stephen Curry, plays for the Golden State Warriors and Brooke Lopez, Robin's twin brother, plays for the Brooklyn Nets. How's it like playing against your brother? Curry recalls that it was interesting at first, but after a while, you cease to think about who it is in front of you in the rival team. Lopez laughs, "They make these ridiculous bets in the dressing room about who's going to dunk more and who's going to have a better game! There's a lot of hooting involved when the first brother scores, because the second one's up next." A lot of the players he knows apparently love the challenge of playing against their brothers and their teams.

Robin Lopez of New York Knicks
Robin Lopez of New York Knicks

It's IPL season, and so we are tempted to raise a question about cricket, T20, actually. When we ask if they've caught any of the matches held so far, they smile. Curry mildly shrugs. He did watch an IPL match but he didn't understand much. Lopez hasn't, and he seems gleefully excited at the prospect of catching a match live. The seven-foot tall NBA star has seen parts of the cricket documentary Fire Of Babylon, about the legendary 1970s West Indies team and he knows about the great fast bowlers of the era, who bowled at
a dizzying pace from a towering height.

This is their first time in Mumbai, and for Lopez, it's been a vibrant experience. "It's nothing like anywhere I've ever been honestly, and this part of the world in fact is very new to me." Seth says that he hasn't seen much in his short time here but that, "it seems to be a really big city, with a lot of different people." Both look forward to a Mumbai encore.

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