Kajal Aggarwal, Tollywood star now making her mark in Bollywood, had a gala time at UBA Season 4 in Chennai, sending the crowd into an even greater frenzy with her arrival. She said, "The energy here is contagious and palpable. Everyone is so excited to be here. UBA is doing a great job as the first professional basketball league in the country. This is very inspirational. The more the kids watch it, the more they want to go out there and play!"
While All the World's a Stage, the men and women often play their part in silence. Bereft of the applause, gasps and drama which goes with stage performances, they go about their daily toil in a relatively nondescript fashion. That being said, there exists a grand stage elevated above the humdrum existence of daily life which features all the drama, emotion and whole gamut of human emotion which life has to offer.
The grand stage of a basketball court
The drama showcased on that grand stage surpasses anything the greatest playwrights could conjure up. Of all the forms of entertainment available today, and the list is staggeringly large and growing even more so, there is nothing which comes close to the drama, emotion, and unpredictability which sports can offer. Of all the sports disciplines practiced today, basketball is near the top of the list in providing the most bang for the buck when it comes to exhibiting a series of dramatic moments.
Awe-inspiring performances building heroes and legends
Star Jagdeep Bains looks to score inside
To be a basketball player in India is to know the meaning of sacrifice, hard work, dedication, discipline and most importantly, perseverance. No one makes it to the top without overcoming long odds. Every player who has ever donned a UBA jersey or an Indian national basketball team jersey has put in their blood, sweat, and tears for the honor of playing at the highest level in the country. Putting the best players in India on a platform with other Indian origin players from abroad and professional players from the USA creates a maelstrom of on-court action producing drama and delight on a scale never seen before in Indian basketball.
Audiences were treated to a number of performances and success stories in UBA which took the game to the next level yet again. We saw one of the most awe-inspiring performances of the season when UBA Season 4 International MVP Dermaine Crockrell fought valiantly to help Punjab Steelers mount a comeback against Mumbai Challengers, dropping 51 points and hitting the go-ahead shot in the final seconds in addition to making the game-saving steal as the time expired.
For Crockrell, his entire season was nothing but a series of inspiring plays where he played all out, threw his body around with abandon and did everything it took to rack up wins. And he was just one of the many incredible stories in the league. Indian MVP Vishesh Bhriguvanshi notched up UBA's first triple-double in a herculean effort vs Pune Peshwas. He put Bengaluru Beast on his back in the South Division play-in game to stave off a surging Hyderabad Sky with his 57 points and 11 assists. Again, that was just one of the many awe-inspiring performances showcased in UBA Season 4.
Bengaluru Beast celebrating after eliminating Pune Peshwas in Season 4 Semifinal series
One can look at someone like Kaif, who's played for Bengaluru Beast for all four seasons, and in Season 4 semifinal series he found himself defending big man Amritpal Singh of Pune Peshwas for stretches. Watching the 6"3 guard attempt to body up Amritpal, one couldn't help but think of the story of David and Goliath. UBA saw a number of 'Davids', short players who played much larger than their stature by virtue of their heart. The 6’0 tall Agu of Chennai Slam is one such player that comes to mind, he spent Season 4 bouncing off of the floor almost as much as the basketball as he took a hearty pounding but kept taking the ball inside time and time again, dropping 50 points in Season 4 opener vs Bengaluru Beast.
Jagdeep exuberant after winning his first UBA championship with Mumbai Challengers
Jagdeep Bains is another comeback story reminiscent of the Rocky movies. After being bedridden with a severe back injury which rendered him unable to walk in 2012, through sheer persistence and force of will Jagdeep rehabbed and worked his way onto the court when UBA came calling and won a UBA championship in his third season with Mumbai Challengers in Season 4.
When heart, grit and a deep desire meets top notch athletic talent and skill, the result is a beautiful sight to see on the court. The collision and collusion of 10 athletes in their prime on the grand stage produce a riveting drama unlike anything imagination could dream up. And it will only get better in the coming seasons. The high level of competition, extraordinary performances, camaraderie within teams and intense rivalries across them, the comeback wins, the putback dunks, the soaring alley-oops
UBA Chief Marketing Officer Michael Yanke spoke of bigger things to come, saying "Every time we have a season we sit back as the executive team, coaches, and even players and see how we can do better than we've done before. We've seen continued improvement from Season 1 to 4 and Season 5 will be better just like that. We'll be bigger, stronger, faster and better than we were before."
Arjun Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor attending UBA action in Season 2
Attending a UBA contest puts you on an exhilarating ride from start to finish. While the players get a breather during timeouts and stoppages in play, the entertainment never stops for the fans. While the on-court action itself presents an inexhaustible reservoir of action-packed plays and momentous delights, basketball has come to be presented as a total entertainment package for the entire family.
Bollywood superstars Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Kapoor took in the UBA experience back in Season 2 and came away in awe of the action.
Speaking of her experience, Kareena said “This is the first time I'm witnessing a basketball match and it's absolutely amazing, very euphoric. Of course, I've tried my hand at it in school, am not very good at it but I can see everyone is playing amazingly here. I just feel really happy that, even though cricket is the big sport here, but it’s so nice to see basketball being brought closer to home and to see our very own people and teams like Delhi (Capitals), Haryana (Gold), it feels at home.”
Arjun Kapoor came away with an exhilarating experience as well. He said, “I've always wanted to play on a court like this. I've played basketball in school and I'm learning all the nuances for my next film. I'm very, very happy to be here and to see that India does have a strong basketball culture which is still going strong and is only getting better. The energy level of the game here is much higher.”
Fun-filled action for the entire family
One can see star-studded performances from renowned singers like Armaan Malik, Raftaar, and Aishvarya Khumar to name a few. With basketball and hip-hop being inextricably linked, we've seen electrifying dance performances from Dream team (Kings of Dance winners) and MJ5 (India's Dancing Superstar winners) among other talented dancers. While the UBA All-Stars put on a show in the first UBA All-Star Game, world-renowned artist Vilas Nayak wowed the crowd with his speed painting of PM Narendra Modi besides the court. While the players battled on the court, head referee Joel Myers engaged the crowd with passes tossed back and forth on occasion.
Some fans got in the spirit of the action and let loose their dance moves, which might not rival the post moves on court or the steps of the professional dancers putting on a show, but were uninhibitedly and unabashedly joyful in their own right. And the T-shirt toss always gets the fans on their feet as they display surprisingly high vertical leaps while elevating to make a catch.
All in all, the sport of basketball is now finally being introduced as a complete entertainment package for the entire family on an unprecedented scale. The game is being raised once again, and we are all witnesses.