India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hailed the successful staging of a pre-season NBA match in Mumbai between Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers. The PM put out a tweet in which he described the occasion as historic for both sports in India as well as the relations between the two countries involved in the process.
"Yesterday was a historic day for sports in India and India-USA relations. Mumbai hosted the first ever @NBA match played in India. The game between @Pacers and @SacramentoKings was a treat for sports lovers. Congratulations to both teams for a riveting contest. #NBAIndiaGames," PM Modi wrote on his Twitter account.
This was followed by another tweet where the Prime Minister described basketball as a popular sport in India and linked it to his project, the Fit India Movement.
"Basketball is very popular among our youth. The @NBA matches set the stage, or rather set the court for greater linkages in sports. I hope more youngsters pursue basketball and also contribute to the Fit India Movement. #NBAIndiaGames"
The match between Pacers and Kings turned out to be as entertaining and exciting as was expected and hoped for by the fans. The Indiana team was able to record a win over Sacramento by the smallest possible margin, 132-131. In fact, the match ended in a 118-118 tie and had to go into extra time.
The importance of NBA's arrival in India was even stressed by US President Donald Trump in his speech during the famous 'Howdy Modi' event held in Texas last month.
President Trump had said, "We are committed to ensuring Indians have access to the world's best products. Soon, Indians will have access to NBA basketball. People will gather in Mumbai to watch the first NBA game in India."
This was followed by a humorous remark from POTUS. "Am I invited, Prime Minister? Don't be surprised, I am warning you, I may come."
The Indian government has been taking certain steps to promote a culture of sports in India. The Khelo India venture has been commended by many and the Fit India Movement has also received the support and backing of many leading sportspersons of India.
The Fit India Movement was launched by PM Modi on August 29 with the aim of promoting healthier and more active lifestyle. There is even a special committee headed by Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju and comprising secretaries from various departments of the government which has been formed to promote this initiative.
The arrival of NBA may just give an extra booster shot to the attempts of the government to get more youngsters involved in sporting activities. This is a welcome development.