If you’re a basketball fan, you have no doubt heard of Nav Bhatia by now, pictured above. If, like me, you are marginally interested in sports, here’s a story worth hearing!
In 1984 Bhatia left Delhi, India, because of the anti-Sikh riots. As a Sikh, his family’s safety was foremost on his mind. Even after immigrating to Canada, racist taunts followed him. He was called “diaper head” and “towelhead,” due to his turban, which he had sworn to his mother as a child never to take off. After many odd jobs, he became a car salesman, establishing a record by selling 127 cars in 90 days. He was then given a failing dealership to take over. The salespeople refused to work for him because he was a Sikh, so he turned the staff over and proceeded to become so profitable that he bought the dealership himself.
As a self-made millionaire, he turned his attention to basketball. He bought season tickets to the Toronto Raptors and became one of their loudest and most loyal fans, out cheering others in the audience. Never missing a home game, he supported the Raptors through 13 seasons of ups and downs. “Those early days, the team would lose by 30 points in the last quarter, win only 16-17 of 82 games and only 4,000 people would be left by the 40th minute. But you know Sikhs – we are loyal people. I never left,” he said. Eventually, the team chairman, Isaiah Thomas, pulled him in front of a crowd to anoint him, “Superfan!”
Last week Bhatia was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a Superfan, the first fan to have the honor.
Bhatia regularly buys thousands of dollars worth of basketball tickets. “I’ve bought thousands of tickets so that kids – Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, the Chinese, Jamaicans, Brazilians, Italians – can become a part of this team.” He also started the Nav Bhatia Foundation, a non-profit organization that is committed to building basketball courts for children in Canada and worldwide.
What a great inspiration to us all! How might you use your passion to lift the spirits of others and bring people together?
“Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.”
– Johannes Brahms