The first two and the last two go together regularly without hesitation. Combining all three – not so much. I headed down to see a tournament in New York just the other weekend, which was both normal and unusual. This tournament was different than any other I had seen, or even heard of for that matter, because all the teams comprised of athletes of South Asian descent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan). The teams came from all over North America – including Vancouver, Toronto, parts of California, Philadelphia and various parts of New York.
And let’s be honest, for half of you the thought of adult Indians playing basketball in a tournament probably brought about a mental image of computer programmers, lawyers, doctors and engineers trying not to trip over themselves and being too short to even touch the net. I’m here to say – it was completely the opposite. The competition level was fairly high for an adult league. Some of the teams even included men who had previously played at the college level (varying degrees) or who could currently play for some schools. (I on the other hand turned down an offer to join to play in the evening all-star game – I hadn’t brought my periodic table along with me to break down all the elements of the competition).
The games were certainly motivational and intense. Each one was played with competitive spirit and grit. I couldn’t help but crack a smile every few minutes in seeing so many athletes who had broken the same stereotype that I had during their life about South Asians and sports. And so many who were passionate and adamant about how basketball had positively impacted their lives, whether they were born abroad or here in the US. The life lessons go well beyond the basketball court.
Akshat Tewary, one of the co-directors of the tournament (who also competed in the tournament), and is an immigration lawyer who had previously played basketball at Columbia as an undersized power forward (with a lot of technically sound post moves) spoke considerably about the far reach of the tournament and how there are events all over the country. He could not emphasize enough how big basketball was to the South Asian community and that Crossover was an idea that had an immense amount of potential. Akshat himself was 7 when his family moved to New Jersey from India. Really – do people still want to say that kids from India can’t ball?
And just like at any tournament there were definitely some high fliers in the group, some big bigs and some shifty guards. It was, spoiler alert, a strong basketball tournament with what happened to be a bunch of guys of Indian descent. Basketball is alive and well in the South Asian communities. Now, even more so, I can’t wait to help open more educational doors for students yearning for opportunities still in India.