22-year-old, the first player of Indian descent in the NBA, spends first match of 10-day contract on the bench
Sim Bhullar made history yesterday by becoming the first basketball player of Indian descent to be a part of a NBA franchise, although it is unlikely he will want to remember the historic day too fondly. Bhullar, who has been signed by the Sacramento Kings on a 10-day contract, spent the entirety of the match on Saturday on the bench as his side lost 95-101 to New Orleans Pelicans at Sacramento.
Sacramento Kings’ Sim Bhullar warms up before their game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Sleep Train Arena on Saturday. PIC/AFP
Bhullar, however, chose to see the bright side of the situation. “Having a 10-day contract is a blessing in itself and I’m taking it day by day. I am just excited for the chance to be here and I am just grateful for that. There are many players who don’t even get this opportunity,” Bhullar told reporters over the phone right after the match.
The 22-year-old admitted that he was nervous before the match started. “The last few days have been a whirlwind. This morning when I woke up I was really nervous. While warming up, I couldn’t stop thinking that ‘it is my first NBA game, all the hardwork has finally paid off’. It’s just a great feeling for me to get dressed and put the uniform on for the first time,” he recalled before adding that he said a small prayer before the game as is his ritual.
While being the first player of Indian descent to play in NBA brings its own set of expectations, Bhullar said that he felt absolutely no pressure. “I don’t think that there is really any pressure on me. I mean, I know that a lot of people are watching and I am ready to show them what I can do but it’s just a game of basketball to me. I don’t look at it as a matter of life or death. I just go out there and play my hardest and, if you do that, I don’t think there is any way that you can go wrong.
“I am just happy to represent my country (of birth) but I hope playing in the NBA opens a door for a lot of Indian boys and girls,” he said.
While Bhullar’s debut match may not have gone as per plan, he will get at least four opportunities to get on the court in a Kings jersey -- vs Utah Jazz (Sunday), Minnesota Timberwolves (Tuesday), Utah Jazz (Wednesday) and Oklahoma City Thunder (Friday). The franchise has the option of handing Bhullar another 10-day contract at the end of the current one. If he impresses at the end of the second contract, Kings could hand him a deal until the end of the current season.
Bhullar was unsure over what the future held in store but was confident he is on the right track. “I have no idea what’s next. Hopefully in the future, I can do something with the Kings,” Bhullar signed off.