Brian Shaw impressed with Indian players’ passion

NBA Champion and former Head Coach Brian Shaw is in India as a part of NBA India’s premier events such as the ACG-NBA Jump National Finals, Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA City Finals and NBA Jam.

Over 14 years in the NBA, Shaw played for seven different teams including the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won three consecutive NBA Championships from 2000 to 2002. Following his retirement as a player, Shaw joined the coaching staff of Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, where he won two more Championships (2009, 2010).

Shaw joined the Indiana Pacers as an assistant coach in 2011 before being named head coach of the Denver Nuggets in 2013. He is most popular for being one-half of the popular ‘Shaw-Shaq Redemption’ (named after Morgan Freeman starrer The Shawshank Redemption), an alley-oop from Shaw to Shaquille O’Neal that was popular with fans of both Orlando and Los Angeles Lakers.

In an interview with The Miami Herald in 2007, O’Neal claimed that the teammate he had most respected in his career was Shaw.

We caught up with Shaw after the NBA Jump finals for a quick interview.

Excerpts:

I’m sure you have been asked this question a lot of times. But how was it to be a part of the Lakers team with Kobe Bryant and O’Neal in it. What were they like? What do you have to say on Kobe’s retirement?

Those were great years for me and for the other players to play with Kobe and Shaq. We had a lot of success, winning three championships in a row. They were two players, each probably the best in their respective positions, who powered the rest of us in the team. It felt like as long as we walk on the floor with them, we were unbeatable.

So it’s great to see Kobe, after 20 years, being appreciated by all the NBA teams and their fans, showing their gratitude to his great contributions to the game. He derseves it.

You had a formidable partnership with Shaq. But in the recent years we have seen a shift in the style of play. The traditional centres are no longer a part of the game. The big men are more agile and shooting three pointers. You see point-guards such as Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook consistenly getting 30+ points. How has the game changed according to you since the 90s?

The game has definitely changed a lot. I would say it’s more perimeter oriented today. NBA doesn’t have those dominant big men like in the 90s. And with none of these big men clogging the D, there is more space to exploit. The big players also shooting three-point shots, which kind of leaves the middle open and you see the point guards now being able to reach the paint area (inner D), thereby making it harder for defences to stop them. That’s why you see a Steph Curry or a Westbrook being explosive on the offensive.

You must have had a chance to analyse the Indian players during the NBA jump finals? What’s one thing that impressed you and what’s lacking in these up-coming players?

I got a chance to look at the players for two days. I have been really impressed by the passion the players played with in the last few days. They play the game really hard.

I would say they lack some style in terms of what I am accustomed to seeing. There are not a lot of big players. The size and the athleticism wasn’t the same. But I’m sure with more exposure, with every opportunity these kids get to play, things will begin to improve.

You started your coaching career under Hall of Famer Phil Jackson. How much of an influence was he, as a player and as a coach?

The experience was great and I learned a lot under Phil. He is one of the greatest coaches. not just in basketball but all of sports. As a player and as coach I learned a lot. He wasn’t very conventional in his approach. We used to meditate a lot. Do yoga. Things that you would think had no connection to basketball. I have always appreciated what I have learned from him.

What other plans in India apart from NBA activities?

I will be spending most of my time working with kids and promoting the game in most parts of the country. I would like to explore, take a little tour and maybe try out some on Indian cuisine but I don’t think I will have a lot of time for that.

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We need a national league – India’s star Bembem Devi

bembem pic

Often considered India’s best woman football player ever, Oinam Bembem Devi announced her retirement two weeks ago, ending a distinguished career that lasted more than 20 years.

Bembem Devi, a native of Manipur, made her international debut in 1995, when India played against Guam in the Asian Championship. She won the South Asian Games title in 2010 and the SAFF Championship in 2012. Bembem Devi was also the AIFF Woman Footballer of the Year twice.

One of the few Indian woman footballers to have plied their trade in a foreign league, Bembem was signed by New Radiant of Maldives in 2014. Besides leading her team to victory in the League, she was also the highest scorer with six goals.

In an exclusive interview with Sportstar, Bembem Devi talks about her illustrious career and her future plans.

Excerpts:

Question: We all set targets when we begin our careers. Do you have any regrets on not being able to achieve something you wanted to?

Answer: To play in the women’s World Cup was a big dream. We did try our best but could not make it. That is something I could not achieve. We have very talented footballers in the country but that is not enough to build a team. Our training camps are too short. So, when we go to a tournament, our co-ordination is really bad. Most of us don’t even speak the same language.

What can we do about this?

What we really require is a longer training camp every year. If we play together as a team more often, the coordination will start happening. Besides, we need to go for more tournaments, tours and friendly matches to gain more experience. What the women’s team needs is a long-term plan.

Recently AIFF announced a league, similar to the Indian Super League, for women. We haven’t heard anything afterwards…

Even I haven’t heard anything about it. Apparently AIFF hasn’t received any corporate backing for the league. But in my opinion, they should still go ahead with the tournament plans and announce a date. I’m sure, if they show intent from their side, sponsorship will come. Without that, the sponsors will always be doubtful.

What are the challenges that a woman football player faces today?

It isn’t too difficult for young girls today to take up football. Families are very supportive and, just like the boys, they are encouraged. In Manipur, a lot of girls come to me, asking me to teach them football. Hopefully, we can clear some ground and I can start giving some training. I do my bit whenever I get time.

So, what’s wrong then?

Very less opportunities. There is no professional league in the country. So, once these girls are out of their educational institutions, their opportunities are very limited and they depend entirely on the jobs they find. And when you are working, to maintain the same level of intensity is difficult.

Having said that, there are positive signs too. The railway teams from Bihar (East Central Railways), Odisha (East Coast Railways) and Guwahati (North East Frontier Railways) are providing more chances to players. These players have some work in the morning but evenings are free for them to train and keep themselves fit. They are also encouraged to take part in the Nationals. More teams are following suit, and hopefully the trend will continue.

Tell us about your stint in Maldives.

Even though India is ranked higher than Maldives, they have a professional league for women. Ashalata (Devi), Bala (Devi) and I had a great time there. It’s very impressive and they have a lot of facilities for the players. It is an international league with players from Pakistan, Sri Lanka etc.

What is great is that within three years of forming the national team, they started a professional league for women. We are yet to do it in our country.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to pursue a career in coaching, helping young football players achieve their goals by sharing what I know about the game. I got my AFC ‘C’ Licence in 2010 and the ‘B’ Licence in 2013. I have also had conversations with the AIFF and even a FIFA representative who had visited Manipur in connection with starting an academy. Hopefully, something will happen soon.

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