It was a hot and humid evening in Toronto, where I found seven foot five (7’5) Sim Bhullar, the tallest projected draft pick in the 2014 NBA draft breaking a sweat. The Brampton native was on the treadmill, perspiration dripping down his face, having just finished running. He had a subtle smirk on his face.
“I’m on T.V. right now,” said Bhullar admiring himself on a local newscast.
Sim is the son of two immigrant parents from Punjab, India. It’s the family’s dream to see Sim make history, by being the first South Asian to be drafted in the NBA.
Sim Bhullar grew up watching the Toronto Raptors play basketball, idolizing players like Vince Carter and Chris Bosh. And, like many young Canadian basketball players he would love to be the new face of the Raptors while representing India and growing this global game. He would like to make not just the city of Brampton where 159,600 South Asians reside proud, but also his parents’ homeland, Punjab.
“It’s definitely a blessing being where I am and being from the Punjabi community out here. Making it to the NBA would be a big thing for the community.” Shares Bhullar, “ I would be the face everybody would see … a trailblazer, a role model pretty much in professional sports. I think I would be the first one out of all South Asians in professional sports.”
He is a low-post presence who parks himself in the lane and at 7’5 and 355lbs, will manhandle anyone who comes within an inch of his territory. The New Mexico State center shed light on the great performance put on by the Aggies (his team) during the season and in the NCAA tournament.
“I thought the college season went great for us. We accomplished some of our goals as a team winning the conference and heading to the tournament. “ Adds Bhullar, “Personally, I thought I did a great job improving from last year, it is the big thing I wanted to do. I thought it was a successful year.”
The South Asian roots are that of the orange, white and green colours of India, where cricket is seen as the most popular sport of choice. There are designated fields dedicated to cricket where pros and amateurs alike take to the grass with just a ball and bat. However, for Sim cricket wasn’t his thing he always wanted to shoot hoops. His parents never pressured him to take up India’s National sport, but instead supported him in his endeavors to pursue basketball.
“The big focus of the NBA is to grow the game in India. I think they are doing a good job over there developing courts. Guys from the NBA are going out there, hosting camps,” explains Bhullar. “I think that even though now there is a little interest in the sport over in India. There will be more interest soon. Growing the game out there would have a great impact on India and worldwide.”
Sim already has a massive fan base in his parent’s homeland. Every time he sets foot in India, Sim is surrounded by lets say a billon fans since all of India is rooting for him to succeed.
On Thursday June 26th, NBA draft day, 60 players were selected for the 30 respective NBA teams. Bhullar was not one of them… his hopes were all but shattered.
As they say, however, when one door closes, another one opens. After draft day came and went what seemed like a stop sign proved to be a detour. He was signed to the Sacramento Kings summer league team. Vivek Ranadive, the first South Asian owner in the NBA, has his eyes set on developing South Asian talent in India and took a chance on the tallest player in the 2014 NBA Draft, Sim Bhullar. He made his debut on July 11, 2014 at the NBA Summer League and with his hard work and solid game play he won over the Kings. On August 14, 2014 he signed on with The Sacramento Kings and is now the first Indian signed to an NBA team.
What Yao Ming did for China in 2002, is what Sim Bhullar now has the opportunity to do for India.