The Sacramento Kings’ signing of Sim Bhullar isn’t going to make the team a title contender this year, but his mere presence on the roster makes them a key piece to the NBA’s expansion.
Sim Bhullar was born in Canada and is part of a new breed of Canadian talent to make it into the NBA. However, Bhullar is not your normal Canadian athlete. He is looking to become only the eighth player 7’5” or taller to play in the league but it is not his Canadian citizenship or huge stature that makes him special.
Bhullar’s parents were born in India and because of his family’s Indian roots, Bhullar could become the first player of Indian descent to play with an NBA team.
The Sacramento Kings are no strangers to diversity. Owner Vivek Ranadivé became the first owner of Indian descent in league history when he was a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors in 2010. Ranadivé, who recently attended the Indian day parade in New York City with Bhullar, believes there is a lot of exhilarating NBA talent in India and that Bhullar could be the first of many players with Indian ties to make the league.
In an effort to expand the game, it was announced that Ranadivé will be accompanying NBA commissioner Adam Silver on a trip to India in early December.
Ever since Silver took over as commissioner in early 2014, he has been very adamant on expanding the game globally. With a market as big as India, it makes perfect sense that Silver try to expand the game into the country.
With the possibility of expansion and a trip to India in the works, Ranadivé spoke out on the already growing basketball culture in the country.
“While cricket is still the national pastime, basketball is the fastest-growing sport in India (after soccer), basketball is well on its way to becoming the second-most popular sport in India. Tournaments and teams exist at all age levels. Basketball is inclusive (in India) and doesn’t require a lot of space or equipment. You can play in urban settings as easily as you can in rural communities.”
While the signing of Bhullar will give them a new opportunity to further grow their product, the league has had some success in the Asian market before.
When the Houston Rockets drafted Chinese big man Yao Ming, it was estimated that over 200 million people in China watched Yao on local television. Due to the amount of support Yao drew from Chinese fans, he was able to lead the NBA in votes for both the 2005 and 2006 All-Star games.
While Bhullar might not have the pedigree Yao had when he was drafted, the signing could still spark interest in India. With the country already adopting the game, Sim could become the final piece to the puzzle for the league’s expansion into the market.
While Sim is certainly going to drive the market in India, he will not be alone in his endeavor. In addition to Sim, there is also his brother, Tanveer, who is set to become the starting center for the New Mexico State Aggies this season. If all goes well, Tanveer could be a draft-eligible prospect in a few years.
Tanveer can only hope to have as good of a college career as his brother had. While only putting up 10.4 points and 7.8 rebounds, it was Sim’s 3.4 blocks a game that made him stand out. He was twice named the WAC tournament MVP, and was an essential part of the Aggies run to the NCAA tournament.
Despite his dominating career in college, Sim’s very raw skill set might prevent him from seeing significant playing time for the Kings this year. Regardless of how much playing time Sim sees, his signing has already opened the doors for other Indian players, like brother Tanveer, to make their way to the NBA.
So, while Bhullar might not make the Kings better overnight, he will certainly expand the NBA and its growing market, and can finally give the fans in India someone to cheer for.