Getting a start in the first match of a short 10-day NBA contract was a long shot for Sim Bhullar.
And expectedly, the 22-yearold centre of Indian descent from Canada did not get a chance as his team Sacramento Kings went down 95-101 against New Orleans Pelicans early Saturday morning (Indian time). However, Bhullar, the first player of Indian origin to become part of an NBA team, can harbour hopes of actually taking court soon. With the Kings already eliminated from playoffs, the 7-foot-5, 360-pound behemoth may even get more time to play than the seven minutes David Wear, the player he replaced, got.
However, if one looks beyond the symbolism associated with being the first NBA player from India and the PR opportunities that creates — a chance for media to gush over “probably a billion people” waking up in the wee hours to watch him play — Bhullar has a long way to go if he wants to become a regular feature in the league.
Though his height is a big advantage — he is the eighth player in the NBA to measure at least 7-foot-5 — his weight is a big stumbling block as he has the heaviest listed weight in league history.
The 22-year-old is aware of the hurdles ahead and is not averse to working harder to get there.
“From college basketball to a professional league is huge difference. NBA is a hard league to get into. The aim is to get better day by day. Reaching the level where I am at was hard. For me, it was mostly about getting my body weight down, more like an NBA player, like an athlete. I feel I run quicker now, running up and down faster, the jump is higher too,” Bhullar said.
Meanwhile, Bhullar is enjoying the adulation his unique stature brings.
“In the warm-up, I couldn’t stop thinking about that ‘it is my first NBA game, all the hard work of years has finally paid off’. The last few days have been crazy,” said Bhullar from Sacramento, Califor nia.