Denver Nuggets’ power forward Kenneth Faried, who visited India to celebrate the NBA Playoffs with fans and promote the growth of basketball at large, fell in love with Taj Mahal besides Indian food and high-spirited b-ball enthusiasts he met in New Delhi and Mumbai.  

“This is my first visit to India and I enjoyed it completely. I traveled a lot in Delhi and Mumbai. I interacted with junior NBA players here in India. I helped them in training. It was an amazing experience,” the six-feet-8-inch baller told The Statesman in an exclusive interview.

When asked what he liked the most about India, Faried excitedly replied “food”, quickly chirping in "Taj Mahal” on second thought.

“The best thing was Taj Mahal. It has been built so beautifully. I loved it. Other than that, food here is amazing. I don’t eat pork, beef, so it was great for me as I got to taste good delicacies of chicken, fish and mutton,” he said.

New Jersey-based Faried was selected 22nd overall by Denver Nuggets in the NBA Draft in 2011. He was named the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2012 and selected as the Rising Stars Challenge MVP at NBA All-Star in 2013.

Recently, the National Basketball Association (NBA) opened its first academy in India, with all facilities of an elite basketball training center at Jaypee Greens Integrated Sports Complex in Delhi NCR.

Talking about the growth of basketball in India, Faried hailed the initiative taken by NBA and expressed that he would love to come again to train the hoopsters in India.

“Of course, I’ll come again. I was happy to play, interact with the academy kids here. They were very good. Watching them play, and the media support, I can see a strong foundation being set up for the game of basketball. NBA has brought all the facilities here with great coaches and equipment. We’ll surely see the sport grow here more and more,” Faried added.

The 27-year-old baller was amused to see the young hoopsters having fun with the ball.

“You can see the potential in anything and anywhere. But the NBA and basketball at large asks for more. Important thing in basketball is having fun with the ball and continuous practice. If a kid is having fun with the basketball, that’s amazing for me to watch.  If they’re trying to juggle a ball or passing it to each other, they’ll get there one day because they are having fun with it,” Faried said.

Since 2006, over 30 active and retired NBA and WNBA players have visited India, including Sim Bhullar, Bruce Bowen, Muggsy Bogues, Chris Bosh, Swin Cash, Tamika Catchings, Seth Curry, Pau Gasol, Robert Horry, Dwight Howard, Robin Lopez and Jason Richardson.

Besides playing for the Nuggets since 2011, Faried was also a part of the United States national basketball team that won the 2014 World Cup in Spain.

The humble hoopster called the World Cup winning moment a “blessing”, adding: “It was a blessing. The feel of the gold medal around my neck was amazing and inspiring enough to make me aim for another one. It was an honour to represent US and come back with the gold from Spain.”

Faried missed the cut for the US national team’s 12-man roster for the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, the baller is determined to exhibit impressive show two years down the line to ensure a position in the squad for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“If I get a call, I am sure I’ll go. Right now, I need to focus on my game. We have a season coming up. That’s more important right now. In two years down the line, I’ve a lot of work to do,” Faried aka Manimal said.