History of PBA
From mud courts to indoor stadium…..
PUNJAB BASKETBALL DOWN THE AGES
By: R. S. Gill
The sport suited the agile and powerful built punjabis who came out triumphant in the first Championship on All India basis, held in New Delhi in 1934 under auspices of the Indian Olympic Association. Before participating in the Championship, a regular Basketball Association had been formed with Sh. G.L. Sayal as its Hony. Secretary. Punjab continued to dominate this game and won the top honours, when the next Championship was held at Lahore in 1936. The success was repeated at Patiala in 1944.
Mr. H.B.S. Richie, an ardent lover of the game revived Punjab Basketball Association after partition with himself as its Secretary and Mr. G.D. Sondhi (the Founder of the Asian Games) as its President. Despite various handicaps the Association continued to send its teams to the National Championship held at Lucknow in 1948 and Bombay in 1950. From 1951 onwards the Basketball Federation of India decided to make the Championship an annual affair. Punjab once again established its superiority and won the Championship held at Ludhiana that year. As a result of this, Punjab players Ranbir Chopra, Dharampal Chum, Davinder Bahri and Gur Parshad were selected to represent India in the 1st Asian Games in 1951. Ranbir Chopra had the distinction to lead the Indian Team. Mr. Ashwani Kumar was elected President of the Punjab Basketball Association in 1952 and Mr. R.D. Sayal became its Secretary, taking over from Mr. H.B.S. Richie, who by then had settled down in Delhi. The Association has since been sending teams regularly for participation in National championships. During the period, Punjab produced some brilliant players and organisers of national standard. In 1953, when an Indian Basketball Team was sent to Pakistan, Narinder Singh and Om Parkash were selected as its members and Mr. R.D. Sayal, the Manager. The National Teams of 1954 and 1955 had a good numbers of players from Punjab:- Manjit Singh, Dharam Paul, Rameshwar Lal and Om Parkash in 1954, and Manjit Singh and Om Parkash in 1955.
The Secretaryship of the Association changed hands in 1958, when Mr. Ranbir Chopra was elected in place of Sh. R.D. Sayal. Keen interest was created in 1958, when Mr. Ashwini Kumar IPS, President of the National Basketball Assoc., decided to hold the National Basketball Championship at Patiala. The high standard of organisation set at Patiala has not since been touched at any other centre. The All Star teams of India, selected by the Federation in 1956-57 included Om Parkash, Manjit Singh and Surinder Puri, in 1957-58 Manjit Singh, in 1958-59 Manjit Singh, in 1959-60, Gurdas Ram, Sardari Lal and Surinder Puri. In 1959, Mr. Ranbir Chopra was elected as Vice-President of the Basketball Federation of India. In 1960-61, Gurdas Ram of Punjab was selected as a member of All India Team and in 1961-62, Sardari Lal & Joginder Singh Jogi got the distinctions. Mr. Ranbir Chopra was the Coach of the Indian Team, which participated in the Quadrangular Tournament in Lahore in 1962. Gurdas Ram, Joginder Jogi, Manmohan Singh and Pritam Singh were also the members of the Indian Team to the Asian Basketball Championship in 1967. Manmohan Singh of Ludhiana was selected for several other international meets and was honoured with the Arjuna Award. Gurpreet Bajwa was the Vice-Captain of the Indian women’s Team, which participated in the Asian Championship held at Kuala Lumpur in 1970. Mr. Ranbir Chopra resigned from the Secretaryship in 1963 and Mr. Rajinder Bhanot took over the charge of Secretary for a number of years.
Kapurthala was the nursery of Basketball players in Punjab. As soon as Sh. R.D. Trikha took over the charge of Distt. Basketball Association, Ludhiana, his teams made a history in the Punjab Basketball Association and he produced a number of International and All Star Players in Men, Boys as well as in Women Section. Sh. R.D. Sayal and Sh. Amarjit Singh were two International Referees in Punjab State. Punjab Basketball story of that period will not be complete without mentioning the names of some enthusiast lovers of the game. They are Sh. Kishore Lal Khanna, Sh. Milkhi Ram, Rattan, Mr. D.C. Bhala, Sh. Om Parkash Mehra and Sh. R.D. Trikha. From Rajinder Bhannot, Sh. Gulab Singh Chaudhary took over the charge as Secretary, for a year. After bifurcation of Punjab and Haryana in 1966, Sh. Gulab Singh Chaudhry handed over the charge to Sh. Mohinder Singh. After a years time, he left for a foreign country on coaching assignment. Sh. R.D. Trikha took over the charge of Secretary and Sh. J.S. Bawa, IPS, Director Vigilance, Punjab as its President. After two years Sh. Bawa left for higher studies in America and handed over the charge to Sh. Krishan Kumar, IPS. Later a fresh election of office bearers was held and Sh. K.S. Bains, IAS, was elected President and Sh. R.D. Trikha as Hony. Secretary of Punjab Basketball Association.
The 1970s saw the emergence of Anil Punj and Hari Singh Sidhu, both of whom played for India in the ABC as well as other internationals. Anil Punj brought more honour to Punjab when he was awarded the Arjuna Award. In 1978, Sh. Avinash Maini was elected the Secretary of the Punjab Basketball Association. His tenure saw the emergence of a group of highly talented women players Suman Sharma, Sumati Dhawan, Suman Sood, Sarita Shamra, Ashi Sharma, Gurimran Laddi, Kiranjit Bittu, Kulwinder Kang, Kawaljit Baath, Rajinder Kaur and Rimpy Dhillon. They swept Punjab to 6 consecutive triumphs in the Nationals from 1978 to 1983 The team was runner-up in 1984 and winner again in 1987. All the above mentioned represented India in the Asian Basketball Championships and 6 of them played in the Asian Games too. Suman Sharma and Kawaljit Baath were the most outstanding Indian women players of the 1980s and Suman Sharma became the first woman to be honoured with the Arjuna Award. Among the men, Paramdeep Singh Teja, Baldev Singh, Mandar Singh, Sajjan Singh Cheema, Kuldeep Singh Cheema, Sham Lal, Ajit Kumar, Paramjit Singh and Amritpal Singh were the outstanding players of the 80s. Paramdeep and Baldev were members of the first Indian Team to play in the Olympics in 1980 at Moscow. Mandar Singh participated in the 1982 Asian Games and all the rest in various ABCs and international test matches. The Men’s team won the National Title in 1984 at Cuttack. Another first was achieved by Sh. Joginder Singh Jogi who was appointed as the coach of the Indian women’s team. He had that position for several years. During those years the junior boys and girls also made a mark on the national scene. Sh. Satish Kumar, Sh. Sham Lal and Sh. Manjit Singh were the other coaches of distinction.
In 1991, there were fresh elections to the State Association and Sh. Rajdeep Singh Gill, IPS took over as President with Sh. Teja Singh Dhaliwal as the Secretary. Since then, the game has been spread out all over the state specially in the rural areas. The old nurseries of Kapurthala, Ludhiana and Kot Kapura for Men and Amritsar and Jalandhar for women continued to hold good but new centers have sprang up in Ropar, Patiala, Mansa, Gurdaspur, Mukatsar etc. The Association became more motivated and every official and coach started contributing their best. The Men’s teams improved in a big way and won the National title in 1994 at Ludhiana, 1995 at Jamshedpur and were second in 1996 at Calcutta. They again emerged Champions in 1997 at Jaipur and also annexed the National Games titles at Bangalore in 1997 and Ludhiana in 2001. Parminder (Sr.), Parminder Singh (Jr.), Vipan Kumar, Gagnesh Kumar and Tejinderjit Singh were regular members of the National Team for ABCs as well as internationals in the 1990s . Parminder Singh (Sr.) and Gagnesh Kumar both captained the national team. Punjab Basketball got a big boost when Sajjan Singh Cheema and Parminder Singh (Sr.) were selected for the prestigious Arjuna Award in 1999 and 2001 respectively.
The women did not do as well in the 90s as they had done in the 80s, but still figured in 5 finals in the nationals, losing each time to the Railways. Sadly due to non-availability of employment in the state for women, the talent was regularly picked up by the Railways thus weakening the state team. Harpreet Matta, Rajwant Kaur, Parminder jit Kaur and Prabhjot Kaur Gill have been the Punjab women in the national teams of the 1990s. The Juniors and Sub-Junior teams improved their position and won numerous national titles in the 1990s. Sh. Jaswinder Singh, IPS, Sh. Yurinder Singh, PPS, Sh. Dinkar Gupta, IPS, Sh. Satish Sharma, IPS, Manpreet Singh Badal and Sh. Sajjan Singh Cheema were the main promoters and developers of the game. Sh. Yashvir Walia and Sh. Buta Ram of Kapurthala were international umpires of repute and thus a pride for Punjab. The outstanding organisers of the state in this decade were Sh. Teja Singh Dhaliwal, Sh. Yashvir Walia, Sh. Darshan Singh Sandhu, Sh. P.S. Noorpuri, Sh. Gurjant Singh, Sh. B.M. Bali, Sh. R.D. Singh and Sh. Balkar Singh Brar. The coaches who played a major role in the preparation of Punjab teams were Sh. Joginder Jogi, Sh. Paramdeep Singh Teja, Sh. Anil Punj, Sh. Satish Kumar, Sh. R.D. Singh, Sh. Manjit Singh, Sh. Gurdas Ram, Sh. Davinder Singh, Sh. Mandeep Singh, Sh. Kanwarjit Singh, Sh. Ramesh Kalley and Dr. S. Subramanian.
Punjab Basketball started from mud courts in the 1930s, got its first brick courts at Kapurthala and Ludhiana in the 1950s and got its first cemented courts in 1969 in Guru Nanak Stadium, Ludhiana. It constructed its first exclusive Basketball Stadium (3 courts-all flood lit with fiber glass boards) in G.N. Sports Complex in 1982 and finally got its own Indoor Basketball Stadium at Ludhiana in 2001. The 21st century saw a number of Indoor Stadiums and cemented Floodlit counts being constructed all over the state. In 2010 the Guru Nanak Basketball Indoor Stadium was enlarged and fitted with maple wood flooring.
A major progress was made when the State Association established the Ludhiana Basketball Academy in Guru Nanak Basketball Indoor Stadium Ludhiana in 2003, with Dr. S. Subramanian as Director. This Academy selected tall young talented players for continuous all year training. It became first a centre for excellence and then the backbone of the State’s teams. Within a short time it had produced outstanding internationals like Jagdeep Singh, Yadwinder Singh, Talwinderjit Singh, Kiranjit Kaur, Kanwaljit Kaur, Harjit Kaur, Snehpal Singh, Dilawar Singh, Amayjot Singh, Sukhvir Singh Dhillon, Amritpal Singh, Satnam Singh Bhamra etc. The Academy was initially sponsored by Sh. Harjinder Singh Dhanoa and later by Sh. Jagjit Singh Noni, both N.R.I.s.
During the years 2000-2010 Punjab did consistently well in the Men’s/Boy’s section. They won the National Games in Ludhiana in 2001 and Ranchi in 2011 as well as the National Championship in Chennai in 2011. The junior team, coached by Sh. Ramesh Kalley, won the national title for 5 consecutive years. The sub-junior and youth teams also excelled. The Women’s/Girls’ teams did not perform that well due to lack of height. Jagdeep Singh, Yadwinder Singh and Talwinderjit Singh were regular member of the Indian teams in the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Basketball Championships of the 2000s. Kiranjeet and Kanwajit were also internationals of repute. Amayjot, Amaritpal and Satnam emerged as the future Stars of the country.
Sh. Teja Singh Dhaliwal, Sh. Yurinder Singh, Sh. Rakesh Agrawal, Dr. Karamjit Singh, Sh. Vijay Singla, Sh. Vijay Chopra, Sh. Balkar Singh Brar, Smt. Surinder Dhir, Sh. Sajjan Singh Cheema and Sh.Darshan Singh Sandhu were the main organisers during this period. Sh. H.S. Dhanoa, Sh. Jagjit Singh Noni, Dr. Karamjit Singh, Sh. Rajinder Gupta and Sh. Nirmal Singh Bhangu were the main sponsors. Dr. S. Subramanian, Sh. Ramesh Kalley, Sh. Ashwani Kumar, Sh. Harjinder Singh, Sh. Davinderpal Singh, Sh. Kanwarjit Singh, Sh. Gursharanjit Singh. Sh. Jagsir Puri, Sh. Paramjit Singh Sh. Ashwani Kumar (Jr.) were the main coaches of the state teams in the 2000s. Sh. Amarjot Singh the most outstanding international refree of the last decade brought great honour to the country and state when he became the first Indian referee to officiate in the Asian Championship finals at Wuhan in 2011. Satnam Singh, at the age of 15 yrs, became the youngest player to represent India in the ABC Team in 2011. Satnam was also elected for advanced training at the NBA Academy at Florida, USA. Dr. S. Subramanian the untiring brilliant trainer contributed 6 members to the Indian Men’s Basketball team at the 2011 ABC at Wuhan China: a most incredible achievement !
Punjab’s excellent administration was recogonised when Sh. R.S. Gill, was unanimously elected as the President of the Basketball Federation of India in 2003. He was again unanimously elected in 2007 and 2011 respectively. In 2011 Sh. Teja Singh Dhaliwal was also unanimously elected as Vice President of the Basketball Federation of India: For the first time ever Punjab had two officials in the highest echelons of the B.F.I.─ a tribute to its untiring and dedicated leadership. In 2015 Sh. Teja Singh Dhaliwal was unanimously elected as Senior Vice President of the BFI and he remained on this post till 2023. Ms. Suman Sharma of Punjab headed the Selection Committee (women) of the BFI . Amajyot Singh , Amritpal Singh and Anmolpreet Kaur were regulars in the Indian Team in the last 10 years , while Princepal Singh , Arshpreet Singh Bhullar, Palpreet Singh and Gurbaz Singh were the other International players. Sh. Rajinder Singh , Punjab Senior Coach based at Ludhiana, has worked to shape the team which won the Senior Nationals in 2018, 2021 and the National Games in 2023. Sh. Gurkirpal Singh (men) Ms. Saloni (women) Sh. Narinder Pal (women) Sh. Ravinder Gill and Sh. Rahuldeep Singh have also showed exceptional results as coaches . Sh. Amarjot Singh was Punjab’s lone International Refree . Sh. J.P. Singh , Sh. Sajjan Singh Cheema , Sh. Mukhwinder Singh Bhullar , and Sh. Parminder Singh (Jr.) were the new organizers cum sponsors of the Punjab Basketball Association.
Punjab has great talent while the physique and temperament of its people is ideal for Basketball. What is required for the future is sponsorship, employment, more coaches and more indoor stadiums to put Punjab on the Asian Map.