Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas visits India

Isaiah Thomas grinning following a foul call against the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 19. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

The Sacramento Kings have grand plans of growing basketball’s popularity in India.  To accomplish that, they have enlisted the help of their 5’9 point guard to promote Vivek Ranadivé’s vision of NBA 3.0.

Isaiah Thomas is on his way to India and will visit Mumbai and Chennai in a week-long trip.  During his visit, Thomas will conduct several basketball clinics for children around the country.  He’ll also get his feet wet as a TV analyst on Sony SIX, which holds the broadcasting rights to all NBA games in India, during their telecasts for the Finals.  Later this week, Thomas will also participate in a Google+ Hangout with fans to promote the official NBA online store in India.

“I’m honored to be representing the Kings and the entire NBA in India this offseason and will do whatever I can to help grow the game here by inspiring children,” Thomas said in a prepared statement.

Last year, the Kings became the first team in the NBA to have an owner of Indian descent.  Ranadivé led a group of local investors to buy the Kings and prevent them from moving to Seattle.  As a result of Ranadivé’s stewardship, the Kings are making concerted efforts to grow their brand in India and had more than 20 of their games broadcasted on Sony SIX this past season.  The Kings were also the first team in the NBA to launch a dedicated Hindi website.

“We are extremely excited to have a member of the Sacramento Kings visit India this summer, and Isaiah’s passion for the game and the community makes him a great ambassador for the sport in India,” Ranadivé said in a press release. “One of the key aspects of my NBA 3.0 vision is deepening the global imprint of basketball and India is a prime example of this. Basketball is rapidly becoming one of India’s most popular sports, second only to cricket, and interest in the game is expanding every day. I also have no doubt that India will one day become a hotbed of NBA-caliber talent.”

The NBA is still in the early stages of growing the game in India.  The league opened its first office in Mumbai in 2011 and has hosted more than 500 events in 10 cities around the country since 2008.  A record 14 games aired each week this year on Sony SIX, compared to just three during the 2012-13 season.

“Isaiah’s visit to India coincides with The Finals, an important opportunity to grow the NBA’s fanbase in India,” said Yannick Colaco, Managing Director of NBA India, in a prepared statement. “Thank you to Isaiah for visiting Mumbai and for inspiring Indian youth to play basketball.”

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.