Perhaps you must have heard of a nation whose love for cricket is beyond telling. What American football is to the US, basketball to the Chinese, and Football to Brazil, so is Cricket to India, the world’s second most populous country. Cricket is the country’s most revered sport. It unites the entire country, creates opportunities, and plays a very important role in its relationship with other cricket-loving countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. This is how important cricket is to Indian society. However, our story is about basketball, one of the world’s fastest-growing sports in Asia, and its position in a country with the most active number of bettors, highly noted for its excellent results with the best Asian bookmakers.

Basketball arrives in India

Basketball they say is a game of discipline, passion, and respect, a sport whose prestige is next to only a handful of others in the world. With an estimated following of more than 2.2 billion fans as recently reported by SportsBrowser, through the influence of its top organizations such as the NBA and FIBA, is currently flexing muscles with some of the world’s most famous brands: the third sport most watched globally.

Basketball made its way to India in the 1890s through Ducan Patton, a Christian missionary with the Young Men’s Christian Association. From women to men, the game gradually spread across the country and in 1934, the first Basketball Championship was held in New Delhi. Largely managed by Patton’s Association, it was not until 1950 that the BFI, Basketball Federation of India, was formed.

A tough road

The establishment of the BFI was a great step post-independence, aimed at advancing further, the course of basketball in the country. However, as it turns out, the journey hasn’t been all that easy.

Unlike cricket which was already a well-established sport in the country, backed and loved by the population even before the introduction of Basket, basketball didn’t and would not get so much attention for very obvious reasons. Despite being an alternative sport just like football, badminton, and tennis, its infrastructural demands were a bit of a challenge. More so, the lack of expert trainers and coaches added to its already heavily loaded package of challenges. Yet, the game matched on still.

As it continued to extend its outreach, its efforts were rewarded with the formation of the first men’s team that went on to play at the Asian Basketball Championships in 1965, Kuala Lumpur. Leading names such as Khushi Ram were noted.

Indian basketball progressively grew stronger, such that in 1975, the national team finished fourth at the Asian Championships. 5 years later, they made their premier appearance at the Olympics and in 1981, unable to overpower Asian Basket powerhouses such as China, South Korea, and Japan, India bowed out fifth at Asian Championships.

Although its progress in the country continued to struggle, India’s impact at the continental level grew and is deeply felt. It has made over 26 appearances at the FIBA Championships and is ranked 5th in the competition. In 2019, NBA took an interest and is currently working towards creating a better and wider market for Indian basketball, both within and outside the country. This move by the NBA as most expect, would not only help make basketball better but equally attract more top bookmakers in India for the benefit of basketball bettors worldwide.