NEW DEHLI, JULY 3, 2008 -- NBA players Ronny Turiaf (L.A. Lakers), Kyle Korver (Utah Jazz), Pat Garrity (Orlando Magic), and Linton Johnson (Phoenix Suns) are participating in the NBA’s first event in India as Basketball Without Borders Asia visits the American Embassy School of New Delhi. NBA.com caught up with Turiaf and Korver to talk about the experience on the third day of the trip.
NBA.com: How is India?
Turiaf: It's fantastic. It's my first time coming out here. It's been a wonderful and very enlightning experience. It's great just being around the people and talking to them while visiting very important places. It's very awesome.
Where have you visited so far?
The first day we drove to the Taj Mahal and stayed there for a couple of hours. Then, today we went to the Gandhi memorial and did some shopping to bring some gifts back to our families.
The basketball camp begins tomorrow. What do you expect the talent to like in India?
I think they'll be very talented. Basketball isn't very well known around Asia because they don't have too much media coverage, but I think we're going to have nice surprises with players who can actually play. I am very excited about the opportunity we have to spark some interest in the Indian and Asian population. I think it will be awesome for basketball. The more people who play basketball, the better it is for the game.
What would you say the level of popularity of the game is right now in India?
I wouldn't know how to put a number on it, but I've been here for about 55, 56 hours and all I see on TV is cricket. So I don't think basketball is very popular here, but that's what makes it so wonderful for us to be able to create some awareness about the game of basketball.
Any stories from your time in India so far?
While myself, Kyle Korver and his buddy Josh were playing gin rummy to make time go by faster on the bus, his other buddy Adam got sick on the side and he was like "Oh my god, my stomach is hurting." He slept the whole ride.
So his stomach is not reacting too well to the food?
I don't know. I think it was because he tried to run five or 10 miles so he might've just been tired from that.
When did you arrive in India?
I arrived in India last week on Friday. I actually got here earlier [than the rest of the group]. I went to Calcutta first and I visited the areas where Mother Theresa worked and her home. It’s my first time in India and over the past week its been good so far. Visiting where Mother Theresa worked was so humbling considering what they did with such limited resources. It was really cool to be a part of that for a few days and see how it all goes down. What instantly grabs your attention in India is the traffic.
The traffic is absolutely bananas, it’s a madhouse out here. Its almost like they just passed out all of these cars and didn’t teach anyone how to drive and basically told them to figure it out but showed them where the horn is…[laughs]. There are two lanes on each side of the road but no one stays on the lane! There are cars next to each other swerving in and out, just constantly honking their horns …The first couple of the times you get into the car, you just want to tell the drivers to slow down and there’s no rush….[laughs] Surprisingly, we haven’t been in an accident yet and everyone’s ok so far..
So you are happy you’ve survived this far?
So are you a big fan of Indian cuisine?
Umm you know, I am not a huge fan but I have found a few things. I like their buffets, it gives me a chance to actually see what I am about to order. I found when I order off of a menu I don’t recognize of most of the names. So I try to do buffets as much as possible...[laughs].
I actually hit up a Subway out here. There was one in Calcutta and it was a pretty funny experience. I ordered a turkey sandwich and I was a little weary of the vegetables so I just ordered meat and cheese. I asked the guy to put on hot mustard like in the US and the guy ended up first putting regular mustard and then plopping some hot sauce right after, trying to make it spicy…[laughs].
There are definitely a lot of differences with the culture…You participated in Basketball Without Borders before, what made you decide to get involved this year?
This is my fourth one, I’ve been to China, South Africa and San Paulo, Brazil. This one opened up and I am really into traveling and I’ve always wanted to go to Calcutta to work down there and see what it was about. That was the main draw for me. I’ll be honest I didn’t know that much about India, I knew about Taj Mahal and Mother Theresa and after that not too much. So far, I can say that it was definitely worth it.
So have you gotten to any activities with BWB yet?
No, we start tomorrow.
What’s on the agenda so far?
We just went over it. Tomorrow, there will be a big press conference with sponsors. Then we’ll do some drills with some kids and then after we’ll have lunch. We’ll then go to a school that deals with families that are separated because a member has AIDS, either the parents do or the kids do. We’ll work with kids who are afflicted with AIDS or HIV. That evening, we’ll finish by going to a restaurant located at this hotel that is considered to be one of the top five restaurants in all of Asia.
That must be exciting right?
Yea…hopefully they got something alright you know.
You mentioned before about holding a press conference tomorrow…Is Basketball really popular in India?
No. Not at all. It’s like people don’t really know anything about it. All of the interviews I did out here today, they all believe that they aren’t tall enough. They don’t believe they have a shot, so it doesn’t motivate them to play. I’ve seen a lot of kids out here playing cricket and Soccer is a pretty big sport. To put things in perspective, I’ve only seen two or three courts in total so far since arriving here last week. When you walk around in the states, some places you can see a basketball court on every other block or a hoop somewhere. I do feel like basketball is a sport where I think if they had courts, kids would love it. It’s such a great game filled with excitement. I just think right now not enough people know about it.
So there won’t be an NBA players coming from India in the near future?
[Laughs] Probably not but hopefully this [Basketball Without Borders] is just the beginning. Maybe this can get it going out here.
Have you or any of the players participating in BWB been noticed over there?
Actually a lot of people in Taj Mahal. There was actually a really funny story. We were taking a group photo and all of the sudden this guy comes out and screams, “come back in, come back in!” So we think that this is something really important, that this guy could be like a president or something. He was telling everyone to get back in the photo and it was funny because Ronny [Turiaf] had to keep getting up and down on his knees and it must have been like 150 degrees out. We were all sweating like crazy. After, the came up to us like, “who are you guys?” It turns out this guy just wanted to be in this photo with all these big guys and he ended up getting in a car and following our bus to the hotel where we were eating lunch. He bought out a players list and instead of asking for an autograph, had me print my name and team below it so that he could follow the team.
There are a lot of Americans out here as well, especially at the Taj Mahal so some recognized us.
-Mike Slane and Alex Labidou