Arjuna Award-winning basketball player Khuhi Ram's demise has saddened the city's basketball fraternity.
Considered the best basketball player of India in the 1960s and 70s, Ram died of a heart attack in Rajasthan on Sunday. He was 76. The 6ft 4inch basketball great, who represented India from 1964 to 1972, died while teaching basketball tricks to 150 children. He had no history of ill health.
Teja Singh Dhaliwal, president of Ludhiana Basketball Association, described Ram's demise as "disheartening" for sports lovers. "He was a gem of a person, both as a human being and sportsperson. He had taken basketball to a new high in India during his time," he said.
As the news of Ram's death broke, teams participating in a district-level basketball championship art Guru Nanak Stadium here paid their last respects to the legend on Sunday. Jaipal Singh, a basketball coach, said, "He was a true sportsman, who even after retiring from the international level was connected to the game as a coach, mentor and never said no if invited to a tournament organised in the city."
Jaipal Singh remembers Ram as down to earth. "There is no substitute to a legend of his repute. Ram coached his son Ram Kumar who later went on to win the Arjuna Award and was also conferred with the 'Dhyan Chand Award' in 2003."
He was the Indian team's captain for the Asian Basketball Championship in 1965, and though the team finished seventh, Ram was the highest scorer in the championship.
The legend was born in Haryana in 1936, and has an unending list of contributions to the sport. He coached the Rajasthan basketball team for years. And, under tutelage, the team remained one of the best in the country.
Jaipal Singh said that during the 10th edition of the Asian Championship in 1970, Ram's marvelous performances and consistency won him three honours - the most valuable player of Asia, the most consistent shooter in Asia, and the best centre player of the tournament.
Loveneet Singh Atwal, a player in the Ludhiana district team, said, "Ram sir's contribution to the sport is immeasurable. Though he is no more, there are many coaches who have been taught by Ram himself and will carry his legacy forward."