For years, the closest relations the hoops world and India had were through the Zen demeanor of Phil Jackson. No more though. As David Stern’s plans for basketball globalization grind forward, the NBA has sent forth the Bucks very own Brandon Jennings to spread the good gospel of basketball to India’s youth. Here are some quick details of his trip, followed up by some quick thoughts.
Jennings trip begins on May 13. He will spend the first few days in Mumbai. On May 14, he will be conducting an NBA Cares Clinic along with the non-profit organization, Magic Bus. The next day, he will attend India’s Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA National Skills Challenge Finals where he will crown the winner. On May 17, he will move to Pune where he will be the first NBA player to host an event there. He will host a Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA clinic on May 17 and an NBA Cares clinic on May 18. Jennings visit culminates two months worth of efforts by the NBA to teach life and basketball skills to India’s youth and prospective coaches alike.
In some ways, India needs Jennings and Jennings needs India.
India’s national basketball team isn’t a source of national pride. Their best finish in the Olympics is twelfth place in 1980. They’ve never qualified for the FIBA World Championships. This wouldn’t be that bad if they had to qualify in Europe or the Americas, but Asia isn’t exactly the hoops hotbed of the world. Jennings has talked about how excited he is to hopefully inspire a kid to play in the NBA. And if Jennings can inspire someone of the Dikembe Mutombo mold – a delightful terror on the court and a philanthropic hero at home – then everyone wins.
Jennings seems to have an earnest regard both for his status as a role model and as an ambassador to the game. It’s always good to give, but I wonder if he’s seriously considered what he can take away from this trip. NBA history is filled by thoughtful champions: Jackson, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Bill Walton, and Bill Russell just to name a few. It’s something the NBA has lost.
Jennings never had the college experience, but perhaps the cultural experience in India will open up his world in a positive way. Perhaps, he’ll take a liking to yoga and join the ranks of practitioners Abdul-Jabaar, Walton and Robert Parrish. Or maybe he’ll open up to Hinduism and become the second Milwaukee athlete to declare himself a vegetarian. None of this really pertains to basketball, but it’s not about that. It’s about somehow finding something, anything really, to get Jennings to find that swagger that makes him so damn fun to watch. A swagger that was lost a little after such a tough season.
Ian Segovia is a contributor to the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook (right sidebar).