Don't care if people think NBA stint is marketing gimmick: Sim Bhullar

Greater Noida: Sim Bhullar, the first man of Indian descent to play in NBA, doesn't care if his association to the 'big league' is seen as a marketing gimmick and he only hopes the latest visit to the native country of his parents inspires more youth to play basketball.

"I have no specific answer to that really. I am here to just inspire the kids and show the kids that the dream is possible. Gimmick or not, it doesn't matter to me. I am here for the growth of the game in India," the 22-year-old Bhullar told PTI at a clinic organised by NBA and Reliance Foundation here today.

Sim Bhullar
Sim Bhullar. Pic/ PTI

Canadian-born Bhullar realised his NBA dream last month when he stepped on the court for Sacramento Kings with his much awaited debut that lasted 16 seconds. He would have wanted more playing time during his 10-day contract but two minutes and 41 seconds was all he could get from the club owned by Indian businessman Vivek Ranadive.

By the end of it, the short stint was also seen as a move to popularise the game in India, through a player who has spent most of his life in Canada. "I have no control over playing time," said the 7-foot-5-inch player who weighs little over 160kg. Bhullar is now working on his game to secure a longer contract next season.

"I came into the side later in the season. You have got to earn your minutes in the NBA and that is what it was all about. It is the biggest league in the world so you have to improve. You have to improve on court, off court, your diet. It is not mainly about watching your weight, you have to be able to run around the court," said the Toronto-born.

He is immensely impressed by the talent he has seen in India, giving him confidence that more players can make the NBA. Bhullar was also asked about 19-year-old prodigy Satnam Singh Bhamara, who became the first Indian to find his name in the latest NBA draft.

"Satnam is a great guy. We met recently and exchanged phone numbers. He is a great guy, has all the skills, he has the body, I think he has a great future ahead of him," felt Bhullar.

He also happened to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Canada recently and called the interaction a once in a lifetime opportunity. "We did not talk much but it was special to meet him and be invited for the occasion," said Bhullar

Bhullar is happy to back in India after six years. "It has been a real fun experience (visiting camps) so far. I am honoured to be here. I am really enjoying meeting the players, the fans. It is giving me goosebumps. "Like in Mumbai, I see a lot of young kids here today, I hope to inspire them. If a guy like me can do it, an Indian player in the NBA, then they can also do it and they can see that through me," he said.

On challenges facing Indian basketball, Bhullar said: "The thing with India is that there is a lot of youth, so it is just about teaching the kids at an early age. That is how I learnt the game. Dribbling the ball around when they are 10 or 12, is what they need to do. "There is definitely talent out there. The kids can shoot the ball, pass the ball, the basics are clear. It is just matter of finding your way to the NBA."

Though he has spent most of life in Canada, Bhullar feels very much Indian at heart, so much so that he is excited to visit the Golden Temple and meet his family in Punjab. "About 70 percent of my family is here. I a just happy to be able to go back to them, meet them. I am sure there will be lots of new baby cousins waiting for me," quipped Bhullar.

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