Palpreet Singh Brar
Palpreet Singh Brar

NEW YORK (Diya TV) — Palpreet Singh Brar, a six-foot-eight power forward of Punjabi descent, and a penchant to dominate the post on a basketball court, has had one of the most unique basketball journeys in the world. As a teenager, he regularly went unnoticed by the established basketball community in India — that was until his breakout performance for the country’s junior squad at the U18 FIBA Asia Championship in Mongolia in 2012. Brar scored over 21 points-per-game, and became the tournament’s third leading scorer. Suddenly, he had the attention of Asian scouts, and had been labeled India’s next, and possibly first, breakout basketball star.

Just a matter of months ago, Brar’s opportunity multiplied, tenfold — the NBA, partnered with ACG Worldwide to launch the ACG-NBA Jump program, which searches out the best basketball talent India has to offer between the ages of 18-22. After rigorous searches produced a healthy amount of candidates, the national finals of the ACG-NBA Jump were held in Greader Noida. Brar, 21, emerged as the tournament champion, and with that, an opportunity to be trained by NBA level coaches and participate in NBA D-league tryouts later this year.

“I am thankful to ACG NBA Jump for this,” Brar said, “I will focus on becoming a stronger player now that I am going to compete with some of the best in the world.”

Three-time NBA champion, and former NBA head coach Brian Shaw was among the scouts in attendance at the ACG tournament. In his opinion, Brar stood alone as by far the best player he’d seen on the trip, where he also served as a judge.

“His feel for the game and understanding, I could tell he grasps it,” Shaw said, “Palpreet Singh, we all thought, was the guy who had the best chance to succeed.”

The tournament and outreach are just the latest in a growing trend from the NBA to expand its brand into other countries, and specifically into India. Yannick Colaco, NBA India’s Managing Director, said the league hopes to make the tournament an annual event, and hopes to foster its continued growth in the country.

“ACG-NBA Jump has given basketball playing youth in India a pathway to professional ranks,” Colaco said. “We are committed to growing the program in the years to come. While Palpreet Singh has been selected for a national tryout in the NBA D-League, the entire pool [the final 32] will be a part of Elite Talent Club and NBA will monitor their progress on a regular basis.”

Stateside, numerous NBA teams have begun a campaign of embracing their South Asian fans, and the culture they come from. As one of the country’s most progressive sports leagues, and with more than three million Indian Americans living in the U.S., teams such as the Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, and the defending champion Golden State Warriors this year continued their annual traditions of hosting Indian-Heritage Night at their games.

The Warriors Indian Heritage night — deemed Bollywood Night — will take place on Wednesday, and it’s sure to be a full house, just one game after Golden State claimed yet another record, winning 46 consecutive games on their home court. The previous record of 45 games was set by the 1996 Chicago Bulls.

TIBCO software founder Vivek Ranadive recently became the first Indian-American majority owner in NBA history, when he purchased the Sacramento Kings in 2013. His vision brought “Bollywood Night” to Oracle Arena, when he was a minority shareholder of the Warriors, and has since continued the tradition 90 miles up the road with the Kings.

Last month’s NBA All Star Game was held outside the U.S. for the first time in league history, and commissioner Adam Silver discussed the idea of expanding the game internationally as the NBA’s brand continues to grow.

“The billion followers of the NBA on social media include many millions of our fans in India as well,” Silver said. “We have about a 10-person office in Mumbai, and we even have an owner, Vivek Ranadive, who was born in Mumbai.”

“We continue to look at expanding the number of regular season and preseason games we play overseas. We just want to be very careful on how we approach it,” Silver said. “I certainly think it’s worked very effectively to play regular season games in London, building some time off for the players once they return. I think our preseason schedule has worked out very well in Asia and Europe.”

Silver recognizes the NBA is in a unique position to share its product — it is the only North American professional sports league which carries a significant following in Asia. League executives have already begun exploring the possibilities of playing exhibition games in Asia, Silver said.