Originally published on 16 Oct, 2017 on www.ubaindia.com
The word 'live' has two different pronunciations and meanings, and while the two meanings may not be related, they definitely are when it comes to seeing how live telecast of basketball has helped infuse it with a new life and a new way for the sport to live. Globally, basketball occupies a very prominent place among team sports, perhaps second only to soccer worldwide. Domestically, basketball in India has always been more of an underground pursuit as opposed to a mainstream one and that has been in part due to a lack of broadcast of Indian basketball.
The legend of basketball players in India has mostly been passed on by word of mouth, as the written history resembled something written by vanishing ink because of the lack of video footage to refresh the memory of the great deeds of our legends. While the pen did justice to their accomplishments, even the most accomplished flourish of ink could not capture what a video feed could. The visceral feel of a blindingly fast fast break, the seismic energy of a dunk thrown down hard, the emphatic shock waves from a shot rejected into the stands, these are moments which galvanize the crowd and set the bleachers roaring. These are also moments which have been lost to us for the most part as they live on only in memory and on paper, not in the form of videos.
While the national basketball championship and precious few competitions had been telecast on television in India, the brief glimpses only served to stoke the hunger for more action. In the past, if one wanted to witness India's best players in action, it would require making a trip to where ever they might be playing and watching the action in person. While that remains the most enjoyable way to catch the action, it is also within the reach of only a tiny fraction of fans throughout the country, depending on where the game may be held. The desire to watch India's best put on a show had been an unrequited one.
Not anymore. With UBA being telecast into millions of households, malls, and televisions everywhere throughout the country, basketball is finally getting its due. With live telecast and highlights being on YouTube in HD, you can now watch a 180 alley-oop from Vishesh to Palpreet, a scoring barrage by Narender Grewal, a game winning shot in overtime by Jagdeep Bains, thunderous and rim rattling dunks by Garry, stifling defense of Yadwinder up close, and a whole lot more right as it unfolds.
Indian basketball star Jairam Jat of Chennai Slam spoke about the unique opportunity of the live broadcasts for the players, "It is really good that players are getting a chance to play professional basketball and pursue it as a career with UBA. It is taken up to another level with the live telecast as it gives the players a lot of exposure throughout the country."
We can now hear water cooler talk along the lines of "Did you see the comeback by Punjab Steelers last night? How about those dunks by Garry!!", because fans can now actually watch the action on a nightly basis during the season. We can see a frenzy of activity on social media in real time as highlights of plays are shared by one and all. Being telecast into millions of homes has given Indian basketball an unprecedented level of visibility. We are accustomed to watching basketball players worldwide putting on a show on our television sets and via highlights online, but fans have not been aware of how we have incredible athletes right in India who can pull of quite a lot of the moves which would amaze us.
Basketball stars in India had largely lived a life of relative anonymity. The shroud of obscurity is being peeled away with the advent of live telecast of games right into millions of households. One instance of many, Bengaluru Beast's Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, the Indian MVP of UBA Season 4, had recounted a chance encounter with a gentleman who recognized him from watching him put on a show in UBA. Vishesh recalled of the fan, “He told me that he had seen me play on Ten Sports for the UBA and wanted to compliment my game. This never used to happen before, but now, there are many more moments of recognition when I travel. I was surprised: he didn’t look like someone who followed Indian basketball!”
Indian basketball players have toiled in the background, working on their game and standing up tall to represent the country at the national and international stage. Their efforts had yielded fruit but their exploits remained an unattainable vision which fans would grasp to catch a glimpse of even as it slipped away from them. A short, solitary video highlight posted online by a fan, a clip of a player's highlights in international competitions, the canon of Indian basketball has been a scattered fragment which fans have been attempting to piece together.
Former Indian basketball captain Jagdeep Singh Bains (Mumbai Challengers) said, "Now the players have a chance to play in front of the entire country. Having fans see more of us and recognize us is a really good feeling. They should take advantage of this and make the most of the opportunity."
Not anymore. With UBA Season 5 on the horizon and promising to be bigger and better than ever, fans will once again have the opportunity to catch their favourite stars in action, in addition to watching young players rise up and make a mark for themselves, and top-level talent from abroad raising the game yet again. With an Emmy award-winning broadcast and production crew working tirelessly behind the scenes, the broadcast quality is at the level of the highest standard of basketball telecast.
The ball for Indian basketball is rolling down court, as it rolls it is gathering momentum and growing larger in size. With isolated pockets of Indian basketball fans now being united on one common platform, fans have a unifying force to bring them together and witness the best basketball action in the country live on air.
The game is about to be raised up another level yet again, and we will all be witnessing it all unfold as it happens live.