The 7ft 5 inch Canadian falls just short of becoming the 1st Indian origin basketballer in the NBA.[This Q&A was originally published in Tadpoles magazine and can be accessed here.]
A few months ago, there was a big splash in international and Indian media when it was announced that a Punjabi basketballer from Canada had been signed on by NBA team Sacramento Kings to its summer league programme. 7ft 5 inch 21 year old Gursimran ‘Sim’ Bhullar, whose parents migrated from Amritsar to Toronto, Canada in the late 1980s, became the first Indian origin player in history to make it within striking distance of North America’s prestigious basketball league i.e. National Basketball Association, better known simply as ‘NBA’.
Over the next few months, from June to October 2014, Bhullar had to prove that he belonged among the 400 odd world class athletes in the NBA. But with limited minutes in the summer league games, the Indo-Canadian failed to make it to the final 15 man roster. He is now a ‘free agent’, and in his case, this is a glorified term for a player without a team. His options now will be to either join one of the developmental league (D-League) teams in the NBA (most probably Sacramento Kings’ D- League affiliate Reno Bighorns) or else try his luck in other international leagues and return next season for a second attempt onto basketball’s ultimate stage.
We had caught up with Sim Bhullar over phone before he was waived by the Kings and here’s what he had to say about his imposing physical stature, the support shown by his family, role models growing up and his message to other youngsters who wish to play elite professional basketball.
Your 7ft 5 inch height: Advantage or disadvantage?
Being 7ft tall can have its own pros and cons and one of the challenges is getting shoes and clothes that fit me! On the other hand being tall does help in playing basketball. I am working on hard to improve my conditioning and the offensive part of my game.
Considering that you are a Canadian citizen and have even played on its junior national team, how connected are you to India?
India is very close to my heart and I definitely am hoping to visit the country soon to work with young players and do what I can to help grow the game.
Describe the experience of getting signed on by Sacramento Kings…
It was a dream come true for me the day I got the call to join the Sacramento Kings summer league team. It’s been an amazing journey so far and I want to thank the Kings owner Vivek Ranadive for providing me this opportunity. I am looking forward to being a part of the Sacramento Kings and I hope I can prove my worth for the club. It has been an amazing experience already going up against great players such as DeMarcus Cousins.
In getting signed by an NBA team, you are already the first Indian origin player from a nation of over one billion people. How have your family, friends and coaches helped you in this process?
My family has been my main support system throughout my career, they have been the backbone to my success and have always encouraged me to take up the sport professionally and make a career out of it.
Who were your role models growing up?
One of my role models and inspirations growing up was NBA star Vince Carter. I watched a lot of his games when he was with the Toronto Raptors. He motivated me to want to play in the NBA someday. I hope to inspire young Indian basketball players worldwide.
What is your message to budding talent, especially from the Indian subcontinent?
Stay focused and keep trying. There will be lot of problems but you definitely will be rewarded for the hard work you have put in.