Balbir Bamrah - NBA selection


 We thank Larry Brown for forwarding this story

August 3 2015


Above Balbir Singh and his family—drafted into NBA

made the papers in India


In this sleepy Punjabi village, no one was surprised to see a towering Sikh farmer striding the narrow lanes towards the Sikh Temple last month. The farmer, Balbir Singh Bamrah, is a familiar figure in Ballo ke and with the height of 2.06 metres something of a local curiosity,

    But the other worshippers at the temple, known as a gurdwara, were perplexed by the prayer the guru offered for Balbir Singh’s household. He prayed for peace, prosperity, health – and that Balbir’s son would be drafted.

    “They didn’t understand what the National Basketball Association draft was” said Sara abjot Kaur, Balbir Singh’s 23 year old , “They only realized later”

    On June 25 at the Barclay Centre in Brooklyn, New York about 11,000 kilometres from Ballo ke –the Dallas Mavericks  team picked Satnam Singh Bhamara in the second and final round, making him the first Indian born player to be drafted by a team in the NBA.

    The selection made little news in the USA, where the first round draft picks garner most of the attention. But in India it loosed a surge of national pride. The national daillies put his photo on their front pages . And in Ball Ke, a village of about 800 people where the unusually tall, soft spoken boy grew up to resemble his unusually tall, soft spoken father, there was a celebration—not an individual achievement, but a collective one.

    “Your son has honoured the country and the village” a local politician told Balbir Singh, sweeping into the family’s living room while his uniformed police escort waited outside near a shed full of unimpressed cattle.

    A small gallery of ageing, turbaned farmers said much of the same thing, sitting as they did every day on sacks of cement in the village. Though many had children who followed them into farming, the men all hoped for better lives for their grandchildren.

    “We want him to go even further”  said Mukhtiar Singh, 62, who grows rice and wheat. “Satnam Singh can help us all get ahead.”

    Baldev Kaur, a lively 65 year old midwife in the village, proudly recalled helping to deliver Satnamin a car on the way to hospital, saying she had never seen a baby so big, at more than 4.5 kilos.

    She saw droves of reporters swarm the village in the days after the draft, asking the family about his shoe size (18 to 20 depending on brand), how quickly he outgrew his clothes and what he read in school. He is now 5 centimetres than his father. She was not quite sure what basketball was , except that Satnam used to play it in his front yard when he came home for the holidays.

    “He used to do this” she mimicked a dribble and a shot - “just like the Americans”

    Balbir Singh, 56, said his son was a fitting cap to a decade of work and training, “Basketball is God’s gift” he said in a rumbling baritone, while greeting stream of visitors and answering calls on a mobile phone dwarfed by his huge hands. “Everything that’s happened to him, all his acclaim, is from basketball’ he said.