Basketball: NBA plans to extend outreach efforts to S'pore via youth programme

NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo speaking to members of the media at Marina Bay Sands on April 5, 2016. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Young basketball enthusiasts in Singapore could soon have the opportunity of learning from elite National Basketball Association (NBA) players and certified coaches as the Jr.NBA, the league's global youth basketball participation programme, continues its outreach efforts in South-east Asia.

In a media roundtable at Marina Bay Sands on Tuesday morning, former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo, as well as NBA Asia's managing director Scott Levy, spoke about how the programme aims to encourage children to play basketball and have active lifestyles.

Said Levy: "We can support what is already a very strong sports infrastructure here...we want to make sure the coaches are equipped to teach at a high level. A lot of the messaging will be the same: play sport, be healthy, enjoy and be successful in life."

Mutombo, an NBA Global Ambassador and Hall of Famer, and Levy are in Singapore for the second meeting of the Jr. NBA Asia Advisory Council, which was formed last January.

According to Levy, talks are ongoing to hopefully expand the programme to the Republic before the end of the calendar year. It is currently in its third season across South-east Asia, after expanding into countries like Malaysia and Thailand in 2014.

Mutombo, who is well known for his humanitarian work off the court, said: "Our game is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. I don't think any other league in the world who have such a great programme to reach out to our youth whereever they are, and to speak to them in the language that they understand.

"We're not just coming to build basketball courts saying, 'Hey kids, these 10 basketballs here on the floor, you come play and we are gone.'

"We're there with monetary support, we make sure there is participation by young people in the neighbourhood. We hope to reach 30-40 million people joining the Jr.NBA in the next couple of years."

The 49-year-old, renowned for being a defensive rock during his days with NBA sides including the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks, will be holding a basketball clinic for Dunman Secondary School students on Wednesday.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.