NBA: Moments of fame, economic logic of Bhullar's India connect

  • Krithika Gopalkrishnan, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: May 05, 2015 10:15 IST

Sim Bhullar's historic debut of being the first man of Indian descent to play in the NBA lasted 16.1 seconds. Overall, he played about three minutes over three games during his 10-day contract with the Sacramento Kings.

When it comes to Bhullar, there are two things that stand out - his obvious 7 foot 5 inch stature and his conspicuous Indian connection. It's early days for the 22-year-old, who was born and brought up in Canada, but a majority of basketball enthusiasts - essentially the promoters of NBA and investors in India - are happy to highlight Bhullar's three minutes of fame.

On his fourth visit to India and first in seven years, Bhullar is already being branded as the next big thing and everyone wants to cash in on Bhullar's Non-Resident Indian (NRI) status.

For him, it's primarily about connecting with his roots. "My parents always said be true to your roots, true to your culture. We always spoke Punjabi in the house. My mother would get mad if we spoke in English. I was raised to be an Indian, raised to be a Sikh and I am a Punjabi at heart. Which is why I am excited to be here. This is history right here for me. Just being able to come back to India, getting involved in the community and seeing all the kids," said Bhullar.

However, for the businessmen, he is in the country rooting for another cause. "I am just trying to spread the word that anything is possible and inspire some kids. They are already doing a great job, training millions of kids and thousands of coaches. Hopefully, in the future, we will have a couple of more players from India coming to the NBA and grow the game in the country," he added.

There are also talks of him doing a Yao Ming. Though, as of now height is their only similarity with Yao Ming being an inch taller. Yao Ming is Chinese by birth and he evolved into an NBA player staying rooted in China. He put China on the map and made it to the top level without any gimmicks or 10-day contracts.

The Sacramento Kings, which has an Indian owner in Vivek Ranadive, played their cards well to rope in Bhullar, even if so for 10 days. They ensured they had something to sell to the Indian market.

On a personal front, the NBA has indeed done Bhullar a lot of good. "It is just the next level. I have seen a different life being an NBA player and a D-League player. I learnt from the veterans to work harder. NBA is the place where you really want to be, you don't want to play anywhere else or go overseas. I just want to be there and stay there."

The fact is as of now it's just a game of economics.

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