Kevin Durant Expands NBA’s Global Influence with Historic Journey to India

Six weeks after leading the Golden State Warriors to the franchise’s second NBA championship in three years, Kevin Durant went on a vacation.

But it wasn’t a vacation in the sense that he could unplug and disconnect.

Durant touched down in India for the first time in his life on Thursday, beginning a three-day trip designed to bolster the growth of basketball in the world’s second-most populated country. 

A day later, Durant set a Guinness World Record for largest basketball lesson when he hosted a clinic for 3,459 Indian children from the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program. One group of players was onsite with Durant at the NBA Academy India — an elite training center in the Delhi National Capital Region for the top male and female prospects from across the country — while others participated via satellite from Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

Kevin Durant displays a shooting technique during a tour of NBA Academy in India.

“Just the buzz around basketball here is growing and growing every single day, especially with this new beautiful academy that we have here, just the resources,” Durant, who became the first NBA player to visit the academy, told reporters before the clinic. “I think that’s going to help the kids grow, along with the access to the game, watching two games a day, watching highlights, getting up at six in the morning to watch a Finals game. That shows dedication, that shows passion and love. That’s only going to grow from time. Just be patient and you’ll see more and more.”

Dear Kevin Durant, you disrespected Indians who welcomed you

Durant also spent time coaching some of India’s top prospects and donating two new basketball courts to the Ramjas school in New Delhi as part of his foundation’s Build It and They Will Ball court renovation initiative.

“The demand for (basketball) is growing,” Durant said. “I think recognition from the NBA, just doing their research on what’s the biggest spots to expand our game, coming (to India) was a major move. Just having the opportunity to interact with the kids and see the potential that they have … it’s pretty cool to be the first (NBA player) to come over.”

The NBA Academy India, which opened in May, is one of many examples of the NBA’s initiative to encourage boys and girls across the globe to learn basketball at a young age. The league also has academies in Africa, Australia and China.

“NBA Academies are the logical next step in the league’s global grassroots basketball activities but are much more narrowly focused on helping elite-level junior players reach their full potential,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver when the initiative was launched last October. “Top international prospects will benefit from a complete approach to player development that combines NBA-quality coaching, training and competition with academics and personal development.”

Durant’s trip comes at a time when the NBA’s international impact is at its highest. At the start of the 2016-17 season, a record 113 international players from a record 41 countries and territories — including stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving and Joel Embiid — were on NBA rosters. 

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