Mumbai: In 2015, when Satnam Singh Bhamara became the first Indian to be drafted into the National Basketball Association (NBA), fans and experts called it the watershed moment for a game that had often showed potential to reach better heights, and possibly even capture the imagination of a cricket loving nation.
Fast forward three years and most things plaguing the game remains unchanged, awaiting the right support to launch off, much like Singh's fluttering career that saw him to return to the country in 2017 in a bid to reignite his career. The self-proclaimed messiah, the UBA (United Basketball Alliance), showed promise, but has failed to deliver, partly due to a mix-up with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) which prevented national team stars from joining the league. The BFI itself continues to battle internal problems, with multiple factions still fighting for control, even after the Indian Olympic Committee (IOC) and the country's sports ministry recognising the Govindaraj-led faction.
Meanwhile, Singh's stint at the NBA didn't last as long as he would have hoped. Even though the seven-foot-tall center showed promise in his limited opportunities, he wasn't offered a contract extension. In November 2017, the once touted 'future of Indian basketball', Singh, signed a contract with the once touted 'future of Indian basketball', the UBA.
Things aren't that grave for the sport though. The NBA is investing heavily in the Indian market and has already set up an academy in Noida (Delhi). The national team has performed admirably in FIBA tournaments although the recently concluded Commonwealth Games was a disappointment.
For Singh, things are looking up too. In his own words, he is a changed man, different and more mature from the teenager who was put to test in the world's toughest basketball platform. But the focus remains the same – to reach NBA.
"My aim is to go back to NBA. I will take whatever route necessary to reach the NBA even if that means playing in a different country. Wherever I have prove myself, I will, but I will one day go back to NBA. This is my goal. Why? NBA is the best opportunity for us," he says.
Let his height and achievements not deceive you – Singh is still a 22-year-old with perhaps the best playing days still ahead of him.
Updated Date: May 11, 2018 15:24 PM