Bidding for Silverware : The ABA 4.0 Auctions!
Rahul Agarwal, Undergraduate Batch of 2022
Dressed sharply, with a purposeful stride, Wednesday night saw owners of the forthcoming Ashoka Basketball Association teams assemble at the MPH, for the player auctions. Many players themselves were present in the crowd, watching on expectantly, eager to find out which team they were going to play for. If there was ever to be a fitting prelude to add to ABA’s hype, this was it.
Everyone expected the auctions to be exciting and truth be said, it did not disappoint. The players had been divided into four tiers, with higher prices for Tier One and Two, decreasing as one progressed through the categories. Each team was allotted a budget of 100 million. Teams could only increase bids by a million, starting from a base price for each player. A few teams were also armed with the special ‘Right to Match’ option wherein they could buy a player who had played for them last season and might have been bought by another team in this auction by matching the latter’s bid. We entered the intense, dog-eat-dog world of player auctions with Syed Waleed, a First Tier player. After frenetic bidding, the Hoopsters captured him for a whopping 64 million. This was followed by another Tier 1 player – Vishwas Gulia. A regular for the Ashoka team, he too was unsurprisingly marked by a slew of teams. Eventually, Lavar Balls secured his services for 51 million.
The tempo was set, and didn’t waiver for a second.
Having strategized their purchases, team owners were slowly lending their squads some shape and depth. Coffers were emptied as players went under the hammer, learning which side they turn out for this weekend.
Players capped by Ashoka would inevitably attract the highest prices, and none would attract as many suitors as the Ashoka captain, Avneesh Garimella. As soon as bidding was opened, the teams went all in to get him on their team. A mad scramble ensued, with some teams effectively refusing to lower their placards. It ultimately went all the way to 96 million – the highest possible – bid by the Gabru Sleeper Cells. Just when GSC thought they had their man, Studs Basketball made use of their Right to Match option and acquired the player. Studs had to, from then on, tighten their purse strings, having coughed up this incredible amount of money for their marquee purchase. There was no such hesitancy from Boys At The Dhaba, however. They went after Elton Ray Coelho from the very offset, staving off late entries in the bidding race, resolute in their pursuits for his services. Eventually, they landed him for a cool 83 million.
With such hefty pricetags, all eyes will be on the likes of Avneesh and Elton. Athletes the world over have been known to buckle under the weight of their own fees. Whether or not these stunning signings deliver this weekend will add extra spice to the ABA.
The Jumpshots would also attract plenty of attention, having managed to buy wildcard entry George Poonen for 36 million. Poonen, a promising first year, could well turn out to be the bargain of the tournament, having almost slipped under the radar with his base price of 1 million. With his team having invested heavily in him, young Poonen would be spearheading the Jumpshots charge, up against some serious competition.
Most teams appeared to be quite satisfied with the players they’ve recruited. The risk with player auctions is, of course, figuring out a way to build a team that can challenge for the title, within a certain budget. What will make the ABA an especially interesting watch will be the host of approaches team owners took when it came to crafting their squads. On the one hand, a few teams threw caution to the wind and went after the players they knew they wanted, regardless of however much bidding they’d have to do. On the other hand, some even managed to curate a competitive lineup without exhausting their budgets, thanks to their astute expenditure.
Whether or not the strategic planning witnessed on Wednesday evening translates into success on Saturday can only be left to speculation. With the auction completed, teams set and just a few hours to go before the first match begins, what is certain is that the stage is set for some lip-smacking court action.
Watch this space for further updates on ABA 4.0!