"It is just the next level,"
"I have seen a different life being an NBA player and a D-League player. I learnt from the veterans to work harder. NBA is the place where you really want to be, you don't want to play anywhere else, or go overseas. I just want to be there and stay there."
I. Since you became the first player of Indian descent to play in the NBA, what has the response been like by Indians in the States?
The reception has been great, especially from the fans. On the trip to China, I saw how everyone really embraced me, with most people calling me the ‘Indian Yao’. It’s been a pretty crazy thing.
II. Tell us about one of your strongest childhood memories related to playing ball.
Growing up in Toronto, there were so many different things to do. After school, I signed up for a programme that included basketball, by chance, and I just really enjoyed it. Later on that year, our mom bought us a basketball hoop, and it just grew from there.
As a kid, you are always writing in your yearbook that you want be a basketball player when you grow up. It’s a joke, and you are not really serious at that point. But at a certain age, when I was around 13, I switched the light on in my head and I wanted to get serious about it. I thought I could really do it and I knew that it was possible, hence I pursued it.
III. You seem to have become a role model back home, especially your parents’ home state of Punjab. What was it like to come back and conduct a coaching clinic in Chandigarh?
There are a lot of young people here, and during the clinic, I saw many kids who are really talented. I started learning to play basketball from an early age, and that's what these kids have done. All they need now is right training, and to keep working hard.
I was very excited about travelling and seeing firsthand how basketball’s popularity has grown by meeting young players from across the country. Hopefully, sharing my story will help inspire young Indians to pursue their dreams on and off the court, just as I have. Yao Ming did a great job being an ambassador, and just being the guy for the youth in China. I'm trying to get on the path that he did.
Sim Greeting Fans In India
IV. NBA has been doing quite a bit over the years to support basketball in the country through their clinics and more. Do you feel we can find more athletes like Satnam Singh going abroad ?
The Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA program promotes health, fitness and an active lifestyle through basketball, and teaches the values of the game such as teamwork, sacrifice, discipline, dedication and sportsmanship. Since 2013, the program has reached more than one million youth in 1,000 schools in eight cities. The NBA has also trained more than 1,000 PE teachers, and donated more than 15,000 basketballs and 300 rims to partner schools; I also inaugurated the first Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA Elite National Camp in Noida on May 4 this year.
Seeing all this, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more and more Indians coming up at the top level like Satnam has.
V. We have seen various Indian millionaires in the country and abroad investing in sporting teams, similar to Vivek Ranadive. Do you feel we need such investors to start putting more Indian athletes in their teams, and what else could they do to bring Indian athletes to a global platform?
What Mr. Ranadive is doing is fabulous. He is giving back to his country of origin in all possible ways. A few months back, he was in India with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and met Reliance Foundation’s Mukesh and Nita Ambani, who are the joint stakeholders promoting the game of basketball in India.
Mr. Ranadive also organized ‘Bollywood night’, when several of the vendors throughout our stadium served Indian food for the first time. Sacramento Kings dancers all wore Indian (or Indian-esque) attire for their performances. The Kings’ website also has an entire section written completely in Hindi – the only NBA team to have this.
Mr. Ranadive also has a very close relationship with Scott Fleming who is the coach of the Indian National Team. And so our staff, our office, our coaches are in touch with him. Mr. Ranadive hopes to have some of those players try out for our league team and hopes that there will be players from there that make it onto our D league roster at the very least.
Sim Has Some Special Fans
VI. Name 5 key things you learnt about Indian Basketball during your short trip to India?
1. There is a good pool of talent and a lot of great enthusiasm.
2. Grassroots are getting stronger.
3. Aspiring players know the game pretty well.
4. Reliance Foundation & NBA India’s grassroots program is the best way forward.
5. If they work hard and give their 100%, another Indian player in NBA wouldn’t be such a distant dream.
VII. What would your ideal Punjabi meal consist of? Are you allowed to eat that kind of food when your training & playing?
We eat rotis pretty much for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rajma Saag, Rajma Chaawal and Chhole are my favourite. I would any day prefer home-made Parathas over corn flakes for breakfast, but my training regimen is strict and it doesn’t allow me to indulge in most of these dishe
VIII. Basketball, just like football is at a very nascent stage in India. Where do you see it heading in the next 2-3 years and what according to you should be done to help Indian athletes?
The best thing is starting them off from a young age, and cultivating a culture and community of basketball, giving them more opportunity to play - whether it’s building courts or helping with their education of the game. For me, it’s all about the early age, because that’s when kids really start picking up basketball.
Basketball is young in India, but in the future, I surely see a big group of kids getting into basketball and NBA. I definitely see a jump and NBA India is doing a fabulous job here with Reliance Foundation by growing the sport from a grassroots level; that’s what is needed and that’s how I have reached the level I am at.
IX. Describe the feeling of those final 16 seconds when you played against The Minnesota Timberwolves?
It was a great feeling. This is just the beginning, as I really think that day was the big moment for me. There is a lot more to go, and hopefully I get another chance like that soon.
Hopefully, more kids growing up will see there’s a player of Indian descent on the court and follow the game a bit more, develop a passion for it to pursue it in the future and we can soon have a couple more Indian NBA players.
X. Do you feel you've experienced any particular challenges because of your ethnicity while playing in the NBA ever?
Not at all. I mean everybody's been happy to have me here, and all the guys are happy I am here. I have got a lot of hugs and cheer when I walk through the door, and I am excited to be in NBA. I am enjoying it.
XI. As a role model to young Indian basketball players, could you give them few tips on how to take their career ahead?
The best thing is to start off playing ball from a young age. I used to play basketball, but I didn’t know it would become my life. But any dream can come true as long as you it give your best.
Playing basketball is more of a job for me now. I wake up early and work hard each day. Even if you feel like staying in bed, you cannot. You have to give it all and you have to train everyday.
XII. Tell us about one funny and one inspiring experience you had during your trip to India.
During one of those promotional activities, I was supposed to take a ride in the ubiquitous autorickshaws of Mumbai. Just when I called for one of them, the auto driver wondered how I would fit in, but I managed to squeeze myself somehow in it and that was actually some experience! The most inspiring was obviously to see those kids at the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA clinics in Noida as well as Chandigarh, and the enthusiasm and love they had for the game.
I told them that any dream can come true as long as they work hard and give it their 100 percent.
XIII. And finally, what do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years?
I hopefully can do something with the (Sacramento) Kings, in the summer league next year and hopefully in pre-season. I am just happy to be a part of it. I want to be a part of the future as well going forward.
I also need to work on every part of my game. The big thing for me is to get my body right and get my weight down, and look more like an NBA player and more like an athlete. I mean, if I could accomplish those things, the game would just work up. I will become a lot quicker, be able to run up and down lot more, and jump higher. I have worked on my body and that was the biggest thing for me; with that, I think the rest of my game has really improved.
Sim-Bhullar giving some tips to the kids at the Junior NBA Elite-National Camp in Greater-Noida
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Compiled By: Homegrown Staff