- Trump asked if PM Modi would invite him to India to watch basketball
- "People will gather in Mumbai to watch the first NBA game," he said
- "Don't be surprised, I am warning you, I may come," he added
US President Donald Trump on Monday had a question for Prime Minister Narendra Modi about a 'surprise visit' to India. While addressing a 50,000-strong cheering crowd at the sold-out 'Howdy, Modi!' event in Houston, President Trump asked whether PM Modi would invite him to India to watch the first game of basketball that the NBA will organise in India. It is also the first game staged in India by a North American sports league.
"We are committed to ensuring Indians have access to the world's best products. Soon, Indians will have access to NBA basketball. People will gather in Mumbai to watch the first NBA game in India. Am I invited, Prime Minister?" President Trump said. "Don't be surprised, I am warning you, I may come," he added.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced in December 2018 that the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings will play in two preseason games on October 4 and 5 in Mumbai.
The Kings, under the leadership of the NBA's first Indian-born majority owner and Mumbai-native Vivek Ranadive, features 2018 number two overall draft pick Marvin Bagley III, 2017's number five overall draft pick De'Aaron Fox and 2016's number six overall draft pick Buddy Hield (Bahamas), the NBA says on its website.
The Pacers' roster as on December 2018 featured 2018's NBA All-Star Victor Oladipo, 2016's NBA All-Rookie second team member Myles Turner and 2016's number 11 overall draft pick Domantas Sabonis from Lithuania.
Since 2006, more than 35 current and former NBA and WNBA players have visited India on behalf of the NBA. The NBA office in Mumbai opened in 2011.
"Our inaugural NBA India Games will help further untap the enormous basketball potential in a country with a thriving sports culture and a growing, young and engaged population. We thank the Kings and Pacers organizations for participating in this historic event," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.
Some 50,000 Indian-Americans are at the Houston stadium in the largest mass show of support for a foreign leader on US soil. The event gives PM Modi a chance to energise his relationship with Indian-Americans who are active political supporters.
President Trump, meanwhile, faces a largely foreign-born audience and he has a strong political reason for coming at the 'Howdy, Modi!' event, according to a report in The Washington Post. "Democrats are making a big play for Texas in 2020... The rally provides Trump with access to a potential pool of Indian American voters that could turn out to be critical in next year's presidential elections," the newspaper reported.