Friday, December 30, 2011

Stephen and Dell Not the Only Curry?

In a blog post last year, we alerted readers to Satnam Singh Bhamara, a teenaged giant from Punjab in India who is turning heads in national and international competitions. Following that AOL Fanhouse article discussed therein, ESPN The Magazine profiled Bhamara in a lengthy piece published today:

THIRTY OR SO YEARS AGO, in the Indian state of Punjab, in a tiny village surrounded by rice paddies, miles from the nearest home with air conditioning or even with glass and screens on all its windows, there lived a teenage boy named Balbir Singh Bhamara who did what had once seemed impossible; he grew to be taller than his mother.

Balbir's father was a wheat farmer and miller with a string of glistening black water buffalo that gave milk as sweet as honey. His mother was 6'9", and young Balbir grew to be a little over seven feet tall -- the tallest person in the village. Everywhere the giant boy went, people told him he ought to play basketball, a game many of them had heard about but never seen.


And then one day another giant emerged: Balbir's middle child, a sweet and joyful boy named Satnam. When Satnam was 9 years old and already taller than most adults in the village, Balbir took the boy to a scruffy local court to play basketball, a game Balbir still barely understood. Satnam walked onto the court, utterly bewildered. He had misunderstood and thought his father was taking him to play volleyball. Predictably, the boy struggled. Balbir watched, feeling untroubled, undeterred -- happy, even.

Not long after they got back home, Balbir crossed the lumpy dirt courtyard that separated his small stable and mill from his even smaller house and mounted a hoop to the weathered brick wall. Balbir summoned his son to the courtyard and handed Satnam a new rubber basketball.

The family room was right inside. At the end of the workday, while others in the family strained to hear the little TV over the big kid's incessant banging of the ball against the wall, Balbir -- a man destined to become the second-tallest person in his village -- would just sit back, sip his tea with buffalo milk, stroke his long, graying beard and grin.

The exoticized, indeterminate, hazy, fablesque tone of the story (which other ballers grew up around mooing buffalo?) is odd but not surprising. Only the sensational gets clicked on that particular website. As we reminded readers last year, Bhamara is just a kid-- one of many playing hoops at a high level in India. His story may already be nothing more than typical. In any case, here is a UK-produced video about him:

Bhamara is not the only 7-footer of South Asian background to fall into the ken of serious scouts this year. The 80-inch-plus Bhullar brothers of Toronto, whose parents are from Punjab, both play for a prep school near Pittsburgh. Sim, the elder boy of the pair, is now in 12th grade and has committed to attend New Mexico State next fall (although, for unclear reasons, he will be academically ineligible to play ball in 2012-13).

Behold the Bhullars:

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