NBA: Indian basketball needs a Yao Ming figure with cricket so entrenched, says Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors attends the Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev light heavyweight championship bout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 17, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors attends the Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev light heavyweight championship bout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 17, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. PHOTO: AFP

New Delhi (AFP) - National Basketball Association (NBA) behemoth Kevin Durant set a world record in India on Friday, but admitted it will take a lot more for basketball to overtake cricket in the country.

Durant said that India will have to be patient and find its own Yao Ming to become a world basketball force as it is in cricket.

On a visit to India that will take him to the Taj Mahal, the Golden State Warriors NBA champion staged a training session with 3,459 Indian children that the NBA said would go into the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest basket lesson ever held.

The 28-year-old forward, who was at the NBA India Academy in the New Delhi suburbs, was the centrepiece of the training session while players in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata joined in through live streaming.

The Durant foundation has also donated two basketball courts in the country.

But Durant acknowledged cricket's place as the No. 1 sport in India.

"I haven't played cricket before, but I know how deep the sport is in the culture," he told a press conference.

"It will take some time for basketball to take over. But we had to start somewhere and this is a great start," said Durant.

"I think the buzz around basketball here is just growing. Just be patient and we will see more."

The NBA academy is already training some young Indians who hope to follow in the footsteps of Satnam Singh Bhamara, who became the first Indian drafted into the NBA in 2015, and Canadian-Indian Sim Bhullar who played in the championship last season.

Bhamara, 21, is now with the Texas Legends, an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, in the NBA D-League, waiting for a call to the big championship.

Bhullar, 24, who made a cameo appearance for the Sacramento Kings to become the first Indian to appear in the NBA, has more recently been playing in Taiwan.

Durant said India has got to find a talisman like Yao who has taken basketball to a new level in neighbouring China.

"That would be perfect here," said Durant.

"They got a guy that got drafted two years ago to Dallas, playing D-League for a couple of years. That was a huge step.

"Even someone like Sim is important, just for people to know that somebody who looks like me can rise up the ranks and do something spectacular," said Durant.

"There are two guys right now. It's just a matter of time before two becomes four and four becomes eight," he added.