Isaiah Thomas is in India to promote the game of basketball. The popular — if somewhat vertically challenged for a basketball player — point guard is slated to visit schools and community organizations in Mumbai and Chennai, where he will conduct youth basketball clinics, according to the Sacramento Kings page on NBA.com. The site also reports that Isaiah will be the first NBA star to perform a Google Hangout in India, though 30 other NBA and WNBA players have traveled to India since 2006, according to a report in the Times of India.
Thomas had an impressive year with the Sacramento Kings in 2013, scoring an average of 20.3 points per game, 6.3 assists per game, and 1.3 steals per game. His shooting percentage was 45.3 percent. He scored a career high 38 points twice last season, against the Oklahoma Thunder and again against the Indiana Pacers.
The Sacramento Kings are owned by Vivek Ranadive, the first NBA owner from India. Ranadive had this to say about Isaiah Thomas’ trip to India to promote basketball:
“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.”
Isaiah is expected to make appearances with Indian celebrities and to conduct basketball clinics for school children during his week in Mumbai an Chennai. He will also offer in-depth television analysis of the NBA finals in an effort to increase the popularity of basketball in India — a country where cricket, association football (soccer in American, football anywhere else) and badminton are among the most popular sports.
The NBA has been making a concerted effort to promote basketball in India since 2011, but a visit by Isaiah Thomas — a genuine NBA star — could go a long way towards increasing interest in the sport. The NBA has marketing agreements with several corporations in India, including Coca-Cola, Spalding, Nike, and Reebok. The NBA increased its television presence this year to 14 games per week, compared to three games per week the previous year. Because of this, many of the children participating in the Isaiah Thomas basketball clinics will likely have seen the Sacramento Kings point guard in action. Those who haven’t yet will have even more opportunities to watch Isaiah Thomas on TV next season.
For his part, Isaiah Thomas had this to say about his trip to Mumbai and Chennai: “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 (basketball) here by inspiring children.”