Nav Bhatia, 69, became the first basketball fan to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Bhatia is known as the “superfan” of the Toronto Raptors and has rarely missed a game since the team started in 1995.
He now runs a foundation to send kids, especially Sikhs like himself, to basketball games.
There are basketball fans, and then there’s Nav Bhatia.
Bhatia, a 69-year-old Sikh man, immigrated from India to Toronto in 1984 and fell in love with the Toronto Raptors. Bhatia made a living as a car salesman, eventually becoming successful enough to own several dealerships.
But his real passion was basketball – and the Raptors in particular. When the team came to Toronto as part of an NBA expansion program, Bhatia bought season tickets.
Despite the Toronto team having something of a rocky record through the ’90s and early ’00s, Bhatia hardly ever missed a game, and, famously, has never left a game early.
He was such a vocal fan and such a constant presence that Raptors coach Isaiah Thomas held a special ceremony to award him the title of “Superfan” in 1998.
When the Raptors won the 2019 NBA Championships, the team gifted him a championship ring emblazoned with the word “Superfan.”
Bhatia told a PRI interviewer in 2019 that when he first started attending games, fans weren’t used to seeing “brown people like me.” In order to change that, Bhatia began purchasing around 3,000 tickets a year to send people to games, many of them Sikh.
In 2018, he launched a foundation to support his ticket purchases. The point of giving away the tickets, he told PRI, “was to tell them that we might look different, we are different, maybe, but deep inside, 99.99%, we have the same passion, which is [we] love basketball and [we] cheer for the same team, which is the Raptors.”
Bhatia now hangs courtside with that other major Raptors fan, Drake.
On May 17, Bhatia – along with Chris Webber, Paul Pierce, and Jay Wright – was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Bhatia’s exhibit features a turban and a “Superfan” jersey.
“Today was a dream,” Bhatia tweeted of the experience. “In the greatest building basketball has, the name Superfan Nav Bhatia will be immortalized. There is now a turban and the first fan honored within [the] Naismith Basketball Hall Of Fame. I am overcome with emotions today.”
Former actor and director Penny Marshall was also inducted, posthumously, as a fan of the LA Lakers.
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