How Did Satnam Singh Bhamara Make Sporting History?
“As a farmer’s kid in a remote village, I could have never imagined this kind of success.” This is the same boy who first discovered a burning passion and talent when his determined father, Balbir Singh, introduced him to a new game in a tiny village called Ballo Ke, in the Barnala district of Punjab. Little did he know that the hoop mounted on a battered brick wall would one day be replaced by one in shiny courts with professional nets…that he would make history as the first ever Indian-born player in the National Basketball Association (NBA), the premier professional basketball league in the world.
“It was 10 years ago when I watched an NBA game for the first time,” he reminisces. “I distinctly remember it was Miami Heat vs LA Lakers. I saw Kobe Bryant play and from that moment he became my idol. I left my home at the age of eight to play in Ludhiana. After being trained under coaches like RS Gill, I represented Punjab in 2008 and went on to play for India.”At the age of 14 and an inconceivable height of seven feet, Singh — ironically called ‘Chottu’ back home — left India for the IMG Academy in Florida with 28 other student-athletes. Struggling at first, not only with English but also with his shoes that were falling apart, Satnam learned and grew quickly, his potential not going unnoticed.
His perseverance and hard work culminated in the moment when the 19-year-old was called to the podium in Barclays Center as the Dallas Mavericks selected him in the 2015 NBA draft. The tears streaming down his face said it all. He firmly maintains that he owes it all to the unwavering support from his father, explaining,“He runs a wheat flour grinding mill and is a farmer too, but he saw a spark in me at an early age and asked me to pay attention to my game, not the fields, saying, ‘Tu khel pe dhyaan de, khet pe nahi’.”