Sim Bhullar simply dwarfs those around him with his towering presence. At 7-foot 5, he has a huge and intimidating figure but he carries an aura of a gentle giant.
Just a month after scripting history by becoming the first player of Indian descent to make a debut in the NBA, Bhullar has been a busy bee. From television shows to attending various functions, the cager hardly had time to catch his breath. The last week, though tedious, has been a productive one for Bhullar as he returned to India after a gap of almost eight years. He even took time from his packed schedule and made a stop at his ancestral home in Amritsar to meet his relatives.
His return to his roots seemed to have invigorated him. Even though the fatigue was quite palpable on his face, he entertained the budding cagers by signing autographs and taking selfies with them at New Public School, Sector 18, considered the hub of basketball in Chandigarh.
“Basketball is definitely growing in Chandigarh and it is amazing to see so many talented players here. I want to tell the budding players to give their 100% so that they can make it big in basketball,” said Bhullar, who made his NBA debut for Sacramento Kings.
Even though his fleeting moment of stardom lasted just 16 seconds when he stepped on to the basketball court for Sacramento Kings, Bhullar has a become a popular figure and has a huge fan following in the region. He has emerged as the flag bearer of Indian basketball and he has no qualms in admitting it.
“You can say that I am the flag bearer. The kids need someone to look up to and it is good to see that basketball is on the rise. I learnt the sport at a very young age. My mother always had an inclination towards the sport and she would drive almost 17-18 km and take me to watch basketball games. I dabbled in the sport at the age of 12 but became serious only when I was 14 or 15,” added Bhullar, who look up to Vince Carter, who currently plays for Memphis Grizzlies in NBA.
When it comes to his roots, Bhullar lets everyone know about him being a pure Punjabi at heart. Even though he has lived all his life in Toronto, he has not forgotten either the language or the staple Punjabi food.
“I love rajma chawal, daal roti and parantha. We had Punjabi food at our ancestral home when I visited them,” the 22-year-old, who spoke in accented Punjabi to send the rapturous crowd into a frenzy, shared.
Life has definitely changed for Bhullar whose parents— Avtar Singh and Varinder Kaur—migrated to Canada in 1988. However, he knows the importance of hard work and continues to work out in the gym to keep his weight under check and also to maintain his fitness. “I regularly work out in the gym and do training sessions. Playing basketball is my job and everyday I think of improving my game. I work hard every single day and try to get better at the game,” Bhullar, who have had weight issues in the past, highlighted.
Also, Bhullar feels that with the emergence of other basketball players from Punjab like Satnam Singh Bhambra, who are waiting in the line to get a breakthrough, the sport will get a shot in the arm. “Satnam is still young and he has plenty of years to get better. His emergence at the big stage has been very encouraging. Hope the other players follow suit,” said the cager.
Meanwhile, the basketball aficionados made the most of the opportunity and took tips from Bhullar.
The crowd also got to see a few of those dunks that they were eagerly waiting for. Then, he turned his attention towards the children. Everytime he showcased his skills, it was met with cheering from the rapturous crowd.