- Karan Madhok
If you followed NBA basketball closely in the 90s, there is little chance that you would’ve missed the great Steve Smith. Boasting a buttery-smooth jump shot, a hunger for racking up points, and a winner’s mentality, Smith enjoyed a successful pro basketball career, highlighted by an NBA championship (2003), a FIBA World Championship (1994), and an Olympic gold medal (2000).
Currently, Smith serves as a studio analyst for NBA TV. He appears on NBA GameTime, a live studio show featuring highlights, analysis, commentary and live look-ins at games being played across the league.
Smith has been in India for the last few days, as a special guest to help inaugurate NBA Jam, which is NBA-India’s ‘travelling basketball festival’, at the Ambiance Mall in Gurgaon on Saturday, September 10. In addition, Smith took part in a different type of interactive basketball programme earlier, as he spent Thursday and Friday morning working with India’s U16 National select teams, who are currently in camp at the Indira Gandhi stadium in New Delhi.
I spoke to Smith on Saturday about his time in India, his experience of working with the Indian youngsters, and the future of the NBA globally:
Q. Is this your first time in India? How has your experience been so far?
Yes it is my first time here and I’ve been enjoying it a lot, especially the time that I spent working with the U16 teams.
Q. Describe your experience with the U16 sides? What drills did you work on? Anything in specific that you shared with them?
Smith: It was great: I worked with the U16 boys side on Thursday and Friday, and with the girls just on Friday. It was a good chance for me to spend time teaching them some drills. The kids are very passionate about the game of basketball.
We did a lot of drills: I even played a game in one of the boys’ teams. For the girls, I helped coach a side for a practice game.
The drills that we practiced included perfecting different kind of shots and jump-shots, and specifically, we worked on getting their balance right. The U16 coaches wanted my help in many other specific situations, for example, in setting up good out-of-bound plays. We touched on several other drills, such as rebounding, defense, and dribbling.
The best part was that the kids were asking me a lot of questions and had a genuine desire to improve their game. I was very impressed by their interest in the game.
Q. You’ve trained the future players, the under-16s of India: What do you feel about the future of basketball in the country?
Smith: I think the future of the game is in great hands. Basketball in India is moving in a positive direction. I have met some passionate coaches who want to learn and help improve the level of play in the young players here.
Q. How do you think that programmes like the NBA Jam will help promote the NBA here?
Smith: The NBA Jam is going to be fantastic: I call it a basketball arcade. It will have many interactive events to engage fans of the game and get them enthusiastic about NBA and about basketball. It will be great fun, especially for the kids who attend and learn more about the NBA.
Q. The NBA has been heavily involved in promoting the game over the past few years. What are its future plans in India?
Smith: Well, I think the NBA is going to continue doing the things it is already doing: bringing in more players here into India, holding more events such as the Mahindra NBA Challenge. We want to see the game succeed here, and so we will keep increasing our efforts of bringing the game into this country.
Q. The NBA has now become a global league – international players are having starring roles and the league has reached out to fans across the globe. What will be the next step in continuing to grow the league internationally?
Smith: I think the next step will probably be in having an NBA team in another part of the world or in further promoting NBA teams to more places around the world. The NBA has indeed helped in making basketball a global game – and we will keep striving to take it into more and more countries.
Q. And the golden question of the day: When will the NBA return again? When will the lockout end?
Smith: If I had an answer to that then I’d be a very rich man!
But really, it seems like things are heading in the right steps. The two sides are meeting each other often now and everyone is working on making sure that the season starts on time.