The most recognizable name in Indian basketball, Satnam Singh – who made headlines by getting drafted to the NBA in 2015 – has announced his switch to Pro Wrestling. What does this mean for both Satnam & his former sport?

At age 25, when Satnam should be entering the peak of his basketball career, he has transitioned to Pro Wrestling. For those within the core Indian basketball community, the decision did not come as a complete surprise. After all, in 2017, Satnam had trained with the WWE. But the timing of this move – one month before his dope ban period was to end – certainly raises some unpleasant questions.

Did Satnam feel that Indian basketball was a dead end? He has certainly been vocal about this in the past (here & here). And despite repeated promises to the contrary, India still does not have a ‘FIBA/BFI approved’ 5×5 Pro Basketball League.

Did Satnam feel his own playing prospects in foreign leagues were diminishing? Notwithstanding media hype within India & abroad, Satnam’s basketball potential has remained limited at best. Always a half-step slower than the other nine players on the court, Satnam’s hulking 7ft 2” stature harked back to an outdated form of basketball, out of place in today’s era of ‘stretch-fours & fives’. This led to his limited minutes in two seasons in the NBA G-League as well as in the Canadian League.

He got a lot more playing time representing the Indian National Team in the 2019 World Cup Qualifiers, leading the team in scoring & rebounds.

Late in 2019, he tested positive for using a prohibited performance-ending substance. This led to him being banned by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) for a two-year period ending in November 2021.

Basketball’s loss, wrestling’s gain?

In such a scenario, Satnam probably decided it was the best time to change sport, at a time when he still has age on his side to learn the ropes (pun intended).

Unfortunately for Indian basketball, it has lost its most recognizable face – yet another blow for a mal-administered sport that has historically struggled for mainstream attention.

But Indian basketball’s loss could be wrestling’s gain.

While Satnam’s relative slow footedness has been a serious limitation on the hardwood floor, his size & strength make him a natural on the wrestling mat. Add to that his social media savvy (Satnam has 160k followers on Facebook & 118k followers on Instagram  – by far the most among Indian basketball players), we could well be looking at the second coming of Satnam Singh – the Wrestling Star, with the slam dunks replaced by choke slams.

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Gopalakrishnan R
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