Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Punjabis Are Here

Well, my nearly two-year-old predictions of a Great Punjabi Hope for basketball have finally come true:

Satnam Singh Bhamara did not grow up dreaming about playing in the NBA -- because he never saw the game. He didn't even know what basketball was.

He just grew.

And his dreams were mostly what he read in books, limited to his life in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, a faraway outpost in the state of Punjab, India, close to the Pakistan border, where his father farmed, and he too, expected to farm one day.


In a country of 1.3 billion people, 7-foot, 250-pound Satnam Singh Bhamar has become a beacon for basketball hope.

At age 14.

"Satnam could one day do the same thing for India that Yao Ming did in China -- put the spotlight on basketball through an entire country,'' said Troy Justice, the NBA Director of Basketball Operations in India who has watched him play many times. "It really could be something.''


Satnam came to the United States for the first time six weeks ago, one of 29 student athletes (both male and female in three different sports) from India who will train at the renowned IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla, as part of a new scholarship program to promote, develop and manage sports and entertainment in that country.

Although the program was designed to last three months before this group leaves and another arrives, Satnam and his burgeoning skills won't be going home anytime soon. It's like gold has been discovered in the hills, and this diamond in the rough will be carefully polished.

It is somewhat ironic that the AOL Fanhouse article glowingly compares the 7-foot Bhamara's body type to that of Greg Oden or Andrew Bynum. Of course, we know that both of the latter guys have congenital problems that make high-level, high-impact basketball difficult: Oden has one leg longer than the other, and Bynum has unusually loose knee ligaments. Both of those players have missed roughly half the possible games in their pro careers due to multiple injuries. Additionally, Oden played only one year of college ball and Bynum skipped college; both missed their chance to allow their growing bodies time to slowly adjust to a game played among world-class athletes.

What will happen if young Satnam Singh Bhamara turns out to be similarly cursed? Many other young athletes around the world have been identified as potential national champions, isolated from their families and peers, and brought to sports incubators (sometimes in the United States) to train. If a tennis prospect flames out, the disappointment foisted on him or her is probably relatively low because tennis-sized athletes are not hard to find. But there are few seven-foot-plussers. If my hypothesis proves correct and the Punjab produces more basketball big men, then perhaps Bhamara can comfortably fail without feeling that he is failing a whole country, as Yao Ming surely has thought at times. We wish Bhamara the best of luck in his journey, but caution observers to reject the "Satnam could one day do the same thing for India that Yao Ming did in China -- put the spotlight on basketball through an entire country" rubric that makes the young man even more freakish than he already is.


Harish said...

Bhel's prediction turns out to be prescient...perhaps. If this guy actually makes it to the NBA, David Stern will finally have his long-awaited key to Subcontinent penetration.

KiDDAA said...

Its a matter time when a Punjabi makes the NBA, there are Iranians, Chinese, Mexicans and so many more. Pasha Bains had the talent, but in Canada there are tons of guys who have talent, but maybe not dedication. You can read the articles on these Punjabi ballers at