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Punjab team time out during their semi-finals match against Tamil Nadu at the 64th Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women, Delhi 2014.
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Punjab team time out during their semi-finals match against Tamil Nadu at the 64th Senior National Basketball Championship, Delhi, 2014.Cathy Scholl
Punjab team time out during their semi-finals match against Tamil Nadu at the 64th Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women, Delhi 2014.
Dhillon Gur leads the Punjab team pre-game warmup up 64th Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women, Delhi 2014
Tamil Nadu team pre game stretch at the 62nd Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 2011.
Uttrakhand vs Delhi 64th Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women, Delhi 2014 .
Satnam Singh Bhamara. Punjab team bench, 63rd Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women, Ludhiana, 2013. Satnam, India's 7ft 2in future hope for the NBA had come to play for the Punjab team from America where he was on scholarship at the IMG Academy in Florida.
Satnam Singh defending the basket, Punjab team vs Services, 63rd Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women Ludhiana, 2012.
Pratham Singh, Riken Pethani, Akilan Pari and members of the Tamil Nadu team celebrate their victory at the 64th Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women, Delhi, 2014.
Punjab guard TJ Sahi is lifted by adoring fans in his hometown of Ludhiana, Punjab as they celebrate Punjab's semi-finals victory over Tamil Nadu at the 63rd Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women, 2013.
Punjab team hoisting the trophy after winning the 62nd Senior National Basketball Championship. Chennai, 2011.
Kashmiri American basketball player and coach Shahid Bhat, his family driver and TJ Sahi in New Delhi, 2012. Shahid, who lives in Kansas, conducts training camps and organizes tournaments in Srinagar, Kashmir and Delhi.
Punjab team member TJ Sahi prepares his iPod playlist for the Savio Cup basketball tournament slam dunk contest. Mumbai, 2012.
Kerala team time out, 64th Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women. Delhi, 2014.
Poonam Chaturvedi 6'11 attacks the basket for team Chattisgarh. Tamil Nadu vs Chattisgarh. 63rd Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women Ludhiana, Punjab, 2012.h vs Tamil Nadu Women at the 63rd Senior National Basketball Championships for Men and Women in Ludhiana, Punjab 2012
Members of the Rajasthan Women’s team watching the action at the 64th Senior National Basketball Championship for Men and Women, Delhi 2014.
Tamil Nadu players Aishwarya Nataraj and Alagi Tamil Mozhi at the 62nd Senior National Basketball Championship. Chennai, 2011.
Tamil Nadu team defeat Chattisgarh to move on to the Finals of the 63rd Senior National Basketball Championships for Men and Women. Ludhiana, Punjab, India, 2013.
Punjab team time out during their semi-finals match against Tamil Nadu at the 64th Senior National Basketball Championsh
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Cathy Scholl
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Get Ready for NBA 3.0

Aug 27, 2014

India is renowned as a country of cricket fanatics. But that hasn't stopped the top brass of the NBA from hoping that basketball will sink deep roots into the South Asian nation of 1.2 billion people.

The Sacramento Kings' interest in rookie Sim Bhullar, whose parents emigrated from India to Canada, may very well prove to be the game changer the NBA is looking for. Although the 7-ft. 4-in. center is not currently on the team’s 15-player roster, owner Vivek Ranadive — the first Indian-born majority owner of an NBA team — says he’s placing big hopes on the 21-year-old.

Officials and owners are hoping that Bhullar will boost the sport’s popularity with Indians, just as the entrance of Yao Ming into the NBA in 2002 led to the meteoric rise of basketball's popularity in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

“What Yao Ming did for China, we hope players like Sim will do for India,” said Ranadive during an interview at an NBA summer league game in July. “I have this vision — I call it NBA 3.0 — where I want to make basketball the premier sport of the 21st century.”

According to the Kings' website, Ranadive is planning to take NBA commissioner Adam Silver on a trip to India in the near future.

However, local sports journalists say several things must fall into place before basketball reaches the level of popularity envisaged by Ranadive. At present, the majority of the nation’s domestic basketball players are semiprofessionals.

“As of now, we can’t think of basketball as a profession,” Roshan Thyagarajan, a columnist for cricket bible Wisden India but also an avid basketball fan, tells TIME. “The boards, the associations are not well-oiled. Everything is out of place. So that needs to be addressed immediately.”

Nevertheless, there's a ton of potential, with India already proving to be a formidable opponent. China might be considered the power to be reckoned with in Asia, but the Indian national team beat the PRC squad 65-58 during a historic win at FIBA 2014 in July.

Photographer Cathy Scholl has been working in India and taking an intimate look at the growing excitement around basketball and the hoop dreams of the men and women who play it. Her images, above, capture a sport making tentative steps in a nation forecast to become the world's most populous in less than 15 years.

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