Two Indian players are in the NBA D-League now. It is, and maybe rightly so, hailed at home. The rise from the battered courts of Northern India to the polished wooden ones which reflect the glamour of the NBA is a long one.
But having witnessed the sheer quality on display in the NBA, the truth is that Satnam Singh (Dallas Mavericks) and Palpreet Singh have a long and arduous road ahead of them - the former knows this already, having been picked up by Dallas Mavericks in the 2015 draft.
The latter has suddenly catapulted to fame as well, having signed for the D-League this year and getting picked by the Long Island nets in the 2016 draft.
Palpreet was apparently in tears when he heard his name. After all, the 22-year-old has battled knee injuries and came through an incredibly difficult nation-wide talent hunt organised by the NBA.
But Palpreet needs to toughen up even more if he is to make it in the cut-throat world of the NBA, where players come and go like drinks on a Friday night.
While Dwyane Wade never had to go through the rigours of the D-League, he is experienced enough with his three NBA titles to know how difficult is the challenge that lies ahead.
"I give a lot of respect to guys that don’t have the easy path to the NBA, don’t get drafted, and have to go to the D-League. They had to work their way in the league as a testament of their mental even more than their physical strength - to be able to stick with it, keep believing in yourself and make it to the NBA then sign contracts. I have no idea what it is to be like those guys but much respect," the Chicago Bulls and former Miami Heat star told Scoopwhoop.
Wade's words make more sense when you see the statistics: only 33% of all NBA players have had D-League experience. You may say that's a good ratio - one in three players makes it. But this is a sport where there are five on the court at a time - and even the best have to make do a complicated substitution-pattern and fewer minutes than they'd like to play.
But all is not lost. The NBA has made sure that the D League is seen as a sort of goldmine - a minor league that can be tapped into by the premier league earnestly. The 33% number is up from 23% in 2011. The games are aired on ESPNU. The league has grown from eight teams in 2001-02 to 22 teams for the 2016-17 season. This season saw its largest expansion since 2007.
What's more, a lot of teams, like Palpreet's Long Island Nets, are owned by NBA sides - in this case, by the Brooklyn Nets. The skeptic will write it off as CSR, but Spain's La Liga operates in a similar way and even a Real Madrid has seen players from it's third-division Castilla integrate into the Galacticos and in other top sides (Juan Mata, Lucas Vasquez, Alvaro Morata and Jese are some examples).
Palpreet has more than a year to make this jump - and judging by how far he has come in a two-month training stint in the US, he has to make the most of the chance.
“For the next one and half years, I would like to train well and do well in the D-League. I have not set myself any specific targets as to when I would like to see myself in the main league. That will depend on my performance," he told the Indian media over a conference call.
Performance - and the ability to stand out. Palpreet and Satnam have a long way to go, but when Scoopwhoop caught up with Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg, he used the perfect example to give a glimpse into the future.
"The NBA has done a great job of playing international hoops especially in the preseason - really making it a worldwide brand so it’s great. You see the impact of a guy like Yao Ming can make in the NBA and what he’s done with basketball in China. Now, you know in India as well, it’s a great market obviously and it’s great to see the impact of international players have had in the league."
Hoiberg killed two birds with one stone there - while he mentioned India as a talent pool, the word 'market' is also important. The NBA has slowly but steadily crept into the Indian sports fans house - first through television, then through the rabid marketing that the league offers, riding on stars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
While the Chinese 8-time NBA All Star was also 22 when he made the draft, there is one big difference - he entered straight into the main draft. Palpreet and Satnam have age on their side, they are a step closer. And while that is to rejoice, India must wait patiently for the road ahead is long and difficult.
Feature image source: NBA