To A Remote Indian Village Of 800, "Basketball is God's Gift"

7,000 miles from his son, 4 miles from the nearest road, a father enters the local temple to offer a strange prayer—a prayer that his son would be drafted.

“They didn’t even know what the NBA draft was,” said Sarabjot Kaur of the Indian locals to the NY Times. In Ballo, India, the main occupation is farming. The average height is 5-5. Mention basketball to most in this town and all you would get is a confused look. But things are about to change.

Bablir Bhamara grew up in a family of giants. Bablir’s father worked hard in the wheat fields while Bablir himself dreamed of a different world—a basketball world. At the age of only 13, Bablir stood 6’ tall. But the boy’s hopes were dashed when his father refused to allow him to travel to the city to learn the game.
“My father wanted to play basketball,” said Satnam, “but my grandfather insisted he could not. They were a family of farmers. He had fields to tend. He never got the chance that I am getting now. He is very proud of me,” he tells the The Dallas Morning News.

Fast forward to the 25 June 2015 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Balbir’s 19-year-old son finally lives out the dream of the father when the Dallas Mavericks select Satnam Singh Bhamara in the final second round of the draft.

Bablir gave his son the chance he never had when growing up. When Satnam was still very young, his father nailed a rickety hoop to the side of their brick home so that Satnam could practice the game. He drove Satnam miles outside their small home village of 800 to find the best competition.

Bablir’s hard work paid off during the summer of 2009 when India’s Junior National Team selected Satnam to represent the country in the FIBA Olympics. Even though the team struggled throughout the competition, the recognition opened new doors for Satnam.

Troy Justice, the NBA’s first director of basketball operations in India, came to India with one mission—light a match under the sleeping giant for new basketball fans. When Justice walked into a dusty gym and spotted Satnam, he questioned Satnam’s age more than once. Already well over 6’5”, Satnam towered over even the tallest of boys on the team at only 14 years old. After working with the giant one-on-one, Justice noticed how quick he learned the game. “He could be the chosen one for basketball in India,” Justice said.

Mark Cuban certainly agrees with that statement. “There’s a billion new Mavs fans out there now,” Cuban told reporters after the draft.

Whether or not India warms up to the game is yet to be determined. But one thing remains certain—Satnam’s father could not be prouder of his son. “Basketball is God’s gift,” said Balbir. “Everything that’s happened to him, all the acclaim, is because of basketball.”

Before leaving India, some of his hometown friends from India wondered if Satnam would ever find a girl to marry because of his height. Now when he visits for the Christmas holiday, hundreds flock to hear about his latest adventures in a foreign land. To Satnam, his basketball fame gives him a chance to make a difference back home.

“In India there are a lot of Indian players who could have a chance to come here and play in college and high schools,” Satnam tells the Washington Post. “I think I can open the door for everyone to come here and play. So it’s good for India and all the players. It’s good for me and my country.”

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