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Lakers center Brook Lopez suggests India should have a pro basketball league

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After a strong year with the Lakers, Brook Lopez headed to India to visit their NBA academy, where he was impressed with the talent level but also thought the country needed a pro league to help grow the game further.

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NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Brook Lopez had an up-and-down first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, but the sweet-shooting big man ended the year on a positive note, averaging 15.4 points on 55.9 percent shooting while knocking down 36.7 percent of his threes after the NBA All-Star break.

Lopez, a free agent this summer, now has the rest of the offseason to pursue his own interests because the Lakers didn’t make the playoffs.

He’s chosen to use that time to head to India, where the NBA recently established a basketball academy. After checking out the talent there and finding himself impressed with it, Lopez told the New Indian Express that he thinks the country’s next step towards producing top basketball talent will be to establish its own professional basketball league (emphasis mine):

“It’s (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 it'll be great to see that kind of growth in basketball; so perhaps a professional league in India (is needed).

India has already started to display some growth in basketball in recent years, seeing Sim Bhullar become the first player of Indian descent to play in the NBA in 2015, followed just two months later by Satnam Singh becoming the first Indian player ever selected in the NBA draft.

Neither player has made much of a mark in the professional ranks just yet, but given India’s growing interest in basketball and its status as the second-most populated country in the world, it seems like only a matter of time before more follow in those players’ (giant) footsteps, especially if the basketball infrastructure continues to grow.

Building that infrastructure is something the NBA seems to have a commitment too, and perhaps Lopez is right that the next step is pro league that will give children local role models to look up to in the sport and emulate as they try to follow their own hoop dreams.

All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen, or support his work via Venmo here or Patreon here.