With a population of over 1.2 Billion people with a majority of the young generation, India has a huge potential to achieve global dominance in sports. And it is no less true in Basketball. Although India has taken major steps forward in certain sports, Basketball still remains neglected in the country. Nonetheless, gems emerge even in the scarce resources in the past decade. Here’s a list of 10 famous Indian Basketball players who made it big through the years.
Sat Prakash Yadav
Sat Prakash Yadav is one of the better-known names in Indian Basketball. Playing at the guard position in his time, he is a former captain of Indian Basketball Team. He was also the head coach of the Indian Basketball Team from 2015 to 2017. The team qualified and secured 7th place in the Men’s FIBA Asia Challenge Cup 2016 after 27 years under his coaching.
He was also the Head Coach of Indian Women’s Basketball Team in the 16th Asian Games 2010 which finished 6th in the tournament. The Indian Women’s Basketball Team won all the matches played in the 22nd FIBA Asia Basketball Championship 2007 qualifying for the Level- I for the First Time ever under him.
Listed just 5 ft 10 inch high, Akilan Pari is one those rare talented genes in Indian Basketball who has been successful in proving that heart is above the height in the game. Akilan served as the captain of the Indian Basketball team in 2018 playing at the point guard position. He has also captained the Tamil Nadu State’s official lineup in U-13, U-16, U-18 and senior level. In 2013, Pari had his fanboy moment come true when he was selected in the Sprite Uncontainable Game of the NBA All-Star Weekend. In fact, NBA superstars like LeBron James and Serge Ibaka coached him in the contest. The Tamilian used this experience to train harder and become one of the best ball handlers and passers in the country.
Vishesh Bhriguvanshi is one of the most talented Basketball players to ever play for India. Bhriguvanshi averaged staggering numbers playing in 11 games for Bengaluru Beast in the UBA with 30.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.2 assists. In fact, he dropped 57 points and 11 assists against the rival Hyderabad in one of the games. He is the first Indian player to sign a deal with an NBL (National Basketball League, Australia) team, Adelaide 36ers. Although, he did not appear in any game for the 36ers during the 2017–18 NBL season Bhriguvanshi signed a one-year training deal on 7 July 2017 with the team.
Prashanti Singh is among the biggest names in Indian Women’s Basketball. The 35-year old shooting guard hailing from Varanasi created history in 2019. She became the first Indian basketball player to be conferred with the civilian award Padma Shree by Hon President of India Ram Nath Kovind. Pashanti is the most decorated basketball player in India. She has 23 medals in the National Championships, National Games and Federation Cups in India. Singh even holds the record of highest medals tally in National Championships. Also, she is a member of the International Women’s Film Forum of Asian Academy of Film & Television.
Geethu Anna Jose
Geethu Anna Jose is a former captain of Indian Women’s Basketball Team. She was a part of the Junior Volleyball Team of Kerala before joining the Southern Railway Basketball Team. She is the first professional Indian woman basketball player to play for an Australia club, Ringwood Hawks from 2006 to 2008. WNBA teams like Chicago Sky, Los Angeles Sparks and San Antonio Silver Stars invited her for tryouts in April 2011. On the back of her Most Valuable Player-worthy performance in 2008, she has clinched a spot in Team Dandenong in the Women’s NBL (Australia’s elite professional league). But she couldn’t accept the offer due to personal reasons.
Anitha Pauldurai is the most consistent player of the Indian Basketball Team. She retired recently in 2018. Anitha is the first Indian woman to play in consecutive eight Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) championships. She was in the top 10 players of the FIBA Asian Women’s Championship 2013. In May 2013, she won the Gold Medal in the first ever 3 on 3 FIBA Asian Basketball Championship Doha. She has Most valuable player awards in prestigious all-India tournaments held in Mumbai, Delhi, Punjab, Coimbatore, Karur, Chennai, Ramu memorial trophy, Savio cup.
Ajmer Singh was the first legendary Indian Basketball player. He was born on 12th December, 1953 in Rukanpur village, Haryana. Singh joined the Haryana Police after his education before practicing Volleyball. However, after giving it a try, the 6’6″ tall athlete found his passion in Basketball. He took the important decision of leaving Volleyball and devoted all his time toward his new found sport. Ajmer Singh also took the brave decision of moving to Kota, which had a long tradition when it came to Basketball.
After making it to the national team, Ajmer Singh performed big at the 1980 Olympic Games held in Moscow. He is an Arjuna Awardee of 1982. He is the only Indian to be one of the top 10 shooters in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Although India finished 12th (out of 12 countries) in the Olympics, Ajmer’s performance is one of the most unique Indian achievements in the Olympics history.
Amritpal Singh is the first-ever men’s Indian Basketball player to play for Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL). He signed with the Sydney Kings after impressing in workouts, training camps, and the pre-season tour, and plays a consistent backup centre for the team in the NBL. Amritpal played in many major tournaments including the South Asian Basketball Championship, the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, and the FIBA Asia Cup. He was crowned the MVP in the South Asian Championship and leading team India to the tournament Title in the process.
Amjyot is the second Indian to make it to the NBA’s G-League with the Oklahoma City Blue. The sharp-shooting 6-foot-8 forward is performing consistently in the league striving towards his goal of playing in the NBA one day. He was the captain of the Indian Basketball team at the FIBA Asia Cup. Amjyot played big for the nation, finishing the tournament leading the team in points (13.0) and assists (4.3). The 27-year old now plays for Wisconsin Herd in the NBA G-league. He was involved in some controversy last year which brought him banishment of a year for indisciplinary actions.
Satnam Singh is undoubtedly the most heard name in India when it comes to Basketball. In 2015, Satnam became the first India-born player to be drafted in the NBA (American Basketball League). He was drafted by the Mavericks following as 52nd overall pick in the second round but was later waived. Then he played in the G-league for a couple of years. He currently plays for the St. John’s Edge in the NBL of Canada. The expectations have always been huge from the Indian Big Man but he never lived up to any of them. He averaged 1.5 points and 1.5 rebounds per game in the NBA G-League 2015-16. He even participated in the 2016-17 season but played only eight games, averaging 1.6 points and 1.3 rebounds per game.