Stunning graphics, attention grabbing videos, projectors beaming animations and lights on the court - just like an opening ceremony at the Olympics, kiss-cams, an equaliser projecting the amount of noise you make, a DJ that is guaranteed to make you sway, a t-shirt cannon that literally shoots t-shirts into the crowd, cheerleaders, The Undertaker, a contest where a single basket can win a fan $20,000, a live performance from Flo Rida, a mascot who runs around the court with a giant net trying to trap people in it, then darkness, then blue lights, the suspense, the madness, the sheer entertainment... and finally, the basketball.

The NBA knows that on-court playing time is only 48 minutes. But the way they engage you for the 150-odd minutes you'll spend in an arena is quite easily the most complete day-out package in world sport. 


India is the market every sport wants to get a pie of. Kabaddi, badminton, football, cricket, hockey... we have it all. The IPL has borrowed a bit from the NBA (the drafts and auctions) and modelled itself on the Premier League. So has the Indian Super League. The Hockey India League comes and goes and so does the Premier Badminton League. But apart from the Pro-Kabaddi League, hardly have any of these managed to capture the imagination of the fan in a stadium. While viewership on television soars, one still has to convince him/herself to make a trek to the stadium - the question being: what will I see at a stadium that I won't on the tele?

But that's not all the NBA has accomplished. There is a surreal feeling when you watch the sport live - that basketball, for the better or worse of it, is secondary to the overall experience of being there. And as Chicago Bulls Director of Entertainment Michelle Harris told us, this isn't recent. The NBA latched onto fan entertainment three decades ago.

All NBA teams have the same goal of providing an entertaining and engaging experience for their fans, as well as the home-court advantage for their team. For the Chicago Bulls, we were the first team in the NBA to take out the lights for intros in 1977, and we began to do this before every game in 1985. This elevated that pre-game moment into a theatrical and concert-style experience for fans. The “Running of the Bulls” intro with the Alan Parsons Project song “Sirius” have been a tradition since 1994 and have become one of the most iconic intros in sports.

Scoopwhoop attended the Chicago Bulls vs Boston Celtics match earlier in the season and the way the team managed to milk the crowd was next level - riding on the return of local boy Dwyane Wade, the Bulls put on a show which, for a first-timer, is easier to remember as exactly that - a show, with the match a blurry background.

And the Americans are not shy to confess to how vital these entertainment breaks are - Harris uses the words 'entertainment' and 'party' pretty freely - because after all, sport is there to make you forget the world's troubles and unite people for one cause. That could be in front of your television sets or in stadiums.

The IPL has provided the same format year-in year-out as opening and closing ceremonies. There is the catch that wins you a selfie or a signed ball. And there's that age-old trumpet that goes off in the IPL tune every time there's a six. There are the ball-jugglers during half-time at ISL and the red rockets that fly into the air at kick-off. But most of Indian sport in stadiums is noise. And a whole lot of restrictions: bags, cameras, bottles... the list is quite long.

Source: b'Chicago Bulls welcomed Dwyane Wade in style. Pulasta Dhar/Scoopwhoop'

Nothing is quite random as well. Harris tells us that 'research, practice and trial-and-error' goes into setting up the entire system: the rushing of the mats on court, the gymnasts going nuts, flipping and soaring for slam dunks, and the cleaning up from the playing centre - all done in 1 minute 40 seconds. Players and officials all comply - with stars doing a dance and participating in the overall fanfare.

"The great thing about our work is that you know right away if it worked or not. The audience will tell you by their applause, or the video will go viral on our digital channels."

But it's not just the kiss-cams which make a league popular. The other massive factor behind the NBA being such a force worldwide is its ability to market their best stars. They have ridden on the stardom of players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to take the league to other countries. The BCCI has tried the same with cricket, taking legends to the States, but the move has to be more radical if the sport is to become more inclusive.

"The game is more global than ever before, as demonstrated by the record 113 international players from 41 countries and territories who were on opening night rosters for the 2016-17 season," Yannick Colaco, Vice President & Managing Director - NBA India, told us. He added that more than 30 NBA players have visited India in the last few years.

These are strategies India's megabucks sports leagues should pick up on. The first challenge is to entice fans to watch the sport at stadiums - with innovations that can be borrowed from the NBA. The second, is to make these global.

It's a slow, and often painful process. But it is the way ahead for Indian sport to spread its tentacles.

Feature image source: Scoopwhoop