Sim Bhullar is used to being a head turner. However, bringing the evening rush-hour at the Golden Temple to a standstill, if only briefly, was a phenomenon that even he wouldn’t have imagined. So when the 21-year-old became the centre of attention for the 100 or so amateur shutterbugs three years ago, he was understandably overwhelmed.
Considering that he stands at 7’5,” it is obvious what must have caught everyone’s fancy.
By the next week though, Sim stands a chance to break new ground by becoming the first player of Indian origin to play in the much-touted NBA. Provided he can make a strong impression in the summer league — that acts as a showcase for upcoming talent — and earn a full-time contract with the Sacramento Kings, owned by Indian-American businessman Vivek Ranadive.
“The owner got in touch with me before the draft and told me he wanted me to play. It felt great to be wanted by a big team. It was also good to see the owner take such an initiative,” says the towering Ontario-born centre, whose real name is Gursimran.
While he is more than aware of his sub-continental background, his NBA dreams haven’t been fashioned on breaking barriers. Instead, playing top-level basketball in the United Stated of America was a passion he grew up with.
The ambition, he asserts, was fuelled by spending hours in front of the television watching and idolising Vince Carter, a hero Sim now only looks up to only in the proverbial sense.
“I always had that tag. I was told years ago that I could be the first player with an Indian background to play in the NBA. I saw him play and just told myself I want to be there and do what he’s doing,” he says. Meanwhile, father Avtar at 6’5”, mother Varinder at 5’11” and elder sister Avneet at 6’1” make it a rather tall pecking order at the Bhullar residence. The hoopster insists that his parents have shared their son’s desire toward a possible NBA entry.
“They can’t wait till I get to put on the Kings’ uniform,” he says. On their part, they have ensured their son stays close to his roots.
“We speak Punjabi and Hindi at home,” he added, who makes weekly visits to the Gurudwara near his Ontario residence. He hopes the next time he visits India, he wants to don the Sacramento Kings jersey. And that he turns heads for reasons beyond just his sky-scraping presence.
Brother Tanveer in fray
Meanwhile, Sim is not the only Bhullar shouting out for attention on basketball courts in the USA and Canada. Two years younger and two inches shorter, brother Tanveer too is steadily following his footsteps.
Like Sim, Tanveer too has joined the New Mexico State Aggies college team.