Stephen A. Smith’s Nav Bhatia take misses the mark


The Toronto Raptors will have a major imprint on the Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2021 class. Not only was superstar power forward Chris Bosh added to Springfield after his 11 All-Star game nods, but the Raptors sent the first-ever fan to those hallowed halls in Nav Bhatia.

The “Superfan” has attended every Raptors home game in Toronto since the franchise was established, even going back to the days in the SkyDome in 1995. He has become one of the most recognizable sideline presences in all of basketball, and Toronto’s 2018-19 championship run made him know beyond his Canadian confines.

The Hall of Fame is creating a section in which the most passionate fans in the game will have their legacies immortalized forever, and that section will begin by making Bhatia the first fan to get this special treatment. Naturally, Stephen A. Smith took the contrarian viewpoint on what looks like a pretty universally cool idea.

Smith claims that there is no way that any fan, Bhatia included, should be honored by the Hall of Fame, citing the fact that there is no uniform agreement on what makes a good fan.

Once you’re done rolling your eyes, it’s time to examine just how wrong Stephen A. is in this instance.

Toronto Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia should be in the Hall of Fame.

If Stephen A. is concerned about how fandom is “defined”, look no further than Bhatia. Assuming that universally accepted characteristics of being a fan, namely devotion to one’s team, impact on their respective franchise, and an altruistic nature that seeks to grow the game outside of themselves, are the criteria, Bhatia checks all of these boxes.

Make no mistake, it is tough to rank fans based on nebulous concepts, but that shouldn’t be a reason to dissuade the Hall from honoring people like Bhatia, a man who spend six figures every year in order to make sure thousands of kids get the chance to support the Raptors in person.

If Bhatia was just some interchangeable dude in the stands, why did the Raptors honor him with a championship ring? He clearly means a lot to this franchise, and the league as a whole is recognizing, officially, how deep that impact runs.

Rather than giving the honor of their inaugural induction to a celebrity like Spike Lee or Jack Nicholson, the Hall of Fame must’ve seen that Bhatia’s devotion is so special they had to honor him, even as the hot take wizards try to slander him.