The First Indian Who Cracked The NBA -Satnam Singh Bhamara

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Standing tall at 7’2”, Satnam became the first Indian to be drafted into NBA after he was picked up by the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA drafts in June 2015. Born in a village called ‘Ballo Ke’ in Barnala district of Punjab, he got the opportunity to train at the prestigious Bradenton based IMG Academy that has previously produced players like Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Joakim Noah and Chauncey Billups. Bhamara is currently tackling it out in the NBA Development League (D-League) for Texas Legends and has played in five out of 14 games so far, scoring six points in all.

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In 2010, Reliance Industries partnered with the global sports marketing company, IMG, to sign a 30-year contract with Basketball Federation of India (BFI) to improve the facilities and help organize leagues to improve the standard of the game in India. In 2010, Satnam led the Punjab team to national victory and was chosen by BFI to play in NBA ‘Basketball Without Borders’ in Singapore. BFI’s head coach, Harish Sharma, later recommended Satnam for a scholarship by IMG Reliance to train at IMG Bradenton. Satnam tells us, “After that, I came here (Florida, US) in 2010 and I just kept playing. If you have an opportunity, you need to play really hard and well.”

Satnam has many admirers in Canada and Indians in America love him, but he reveals that financially, he didn’t get any support from the Indian government. Back in India, Balbir Singh is a proud father who has enthusiastically supported his son, Satnam, towards aiming to become a basketball star despite having very limited means. He says, “When I was a child, my dad told me that I need to work hard on myself. He made me do only two things - study and play basketball and said, “You don’t need more than that.”

Interestingly, Satnam’s mother is 6’9” tall and his father at 7’3” is the tallest man in his village. In his own youth, he had been advised to play basketball, but Satnam’s grand-father restrained him from getting 
into sports and rather wanted him to be a farmer like everyone else. This led Balbir not suppress the capabilities he saw in Satnam and help him enroll in the Ludhiana Basketball Academy to hone his skills at a very young age.

As Satnam awaits better opportunities in NBA matches, he is challenging himself everyday to continuously improve his game. He’s also hoping for his next chance to travel to India very soon. Apart from improving his performance, Satnam’s “next goal is to play for the Indian basketball team.”

(This article was first published in the February issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)