MUMBAI: Los Angeles Lakers centre, Brook Lopez, has wound up his NBA-related India visit and is carrying home favourable impressions about the talent pool he has seen here.
In a media interaction here today, the 7-footer gave the example of the United States newfound love for football through Major League Soccer and felt a similar professional basketball league would help in honing the skills of Indian hoopsters further.
"Its (soccer) increasing in popularity in America obviously and has been for a while. Interest in the MLS has been increasing a lot every time the (FIFA) World Cup comes around. Great interest is being generated in the local league and it keeps growing. I think there are 23-24 teams now," said the Lakers player.
"I think itll be great to see that kind of growth in basketball; so perhaps a professional league in India (is needed).
For me it gives an opportunity for the players to move on to the national team and one day hopefully (gain a place) in the NBA," said Lopez, who himself is a big fan of former top French soccer greats Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry.
Conceding the global competition in his sport does not have the same appeal as the football World Cup, Lopez was of the opinion that developing the hoop sport in countries like India could make the interest grow.
"Obviously, its not as big. But then it will be such a beautiful thing to see the basketball World Cup be the same spectacle as the football World Cup. Obviously its getting there and youre putting the right resources on working to make that happen. Its going to take more such visits to countries where basketball is developing," he observed.
At the moment basketball in the Olympic Games is more exciting than the World Cup (Championship), he felt.
"There is no question that the Olympics (basketball) seem to be more exciting than the World Cup and hopefully that will continue. Its great to see teams (countries) like Spain and Australia, France having fantastic teams and hopefully we will see more growth in the same way," he said.
He welcomed 3x3 basketball as a means to showcase the hoop game at the global level.
"I think thats going to be an Olympic sport, right? I think thats a very exciting possibility and I think a lot of international teams are catching up with 3x3 as well.
Look at Australia or Spain, with Gasol brothers. It could be a lot of fun to watch and I think its just another way to showcase basketball."
Lopez pointed to Golden State Warriors star player Stephen Curry to buttress his point that men standing under six-feet could also prosper in the NBA where 6-footers are dwarfed by much taller players.
"I think its kind of a cool thing about the game, the way the game is gone and the game has evolved and then you see you guys like Steph Curry and Isaiah Thomas, one of my teammates, and the size he is and theyre doing this amazing thing on the floors against 7-foot guys like myself, so I think it definitely gives a different dynamic where you just dont have to be bigger but be more athletic."
On his India visit and the NBA Academy camp he had attended in Delhi, Lopez said he was impressed by some youngsters.
"Yes, there were a few of them, (but) unfortunately I didnt get any names. But watching different kids exceeded my expectations. And these kids being 14-15 years old, there is so much room for improvement in these formative years."