Ever since Vivek Ranadive bought the Sacramento Kings in 2013, he has wanted to play a game in India where he was born.
Ranadive’s wish will come true.
The Kings will play the Indiana Pacers in two preseason games on Oct. 4-5 at NSCI Dome in Mumbai, marking the first time a North American pro sports league will play games in India.
“As an Indian-American, it is an honor to help bring this historic moment to the country where I was raised,” Ranadive said in a statement.
NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum traveled to Mumbai to make the announcement on Thursday.
“Our inaugural NBA India Games will help further untap the enormous basketball potential in a country with a thriving sports culture and a growing, young and engaged population,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
The NBA prizes its growth in India. The population and growing middle class has generated grassroots and business opportunities for the league.
The league opened an office in Mumbai in 2011 and the NBA Academy India in 2017 for elite youth prospects. More than 350 NBA games are televised on multiple channels in India, including 78 with Hindi commentary.
The Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program has reached more than 10 million kids and trained more than 10,000 instructors since 2013, according to the NBA.
These preseason games are particularly poignant to Ranadive. He is the first Indian majority owner of an NBA team, traveled to India with Silver in 2014 and hosts an annual Bollywood Night in Sacramento. In 2017, the Kings streamed a regular-season game live on Facebook available only to users in India and 20-plus Kings game a season are televised on India’s SONY Six.
“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,” he said. “The world wants to watch basketball, and India is a fast-growing new frontier."