Satnam Singh who hit the headlines in mid-2015 after getting picked by a NBA team, is also being wooed by the gimmicky World Wrestling Entertainment, and even travelled to Orlando last week for a workout at WWE’s Performance Centre facility in what is emerging as Plan B for the 7 foot-2 hoopster.
“They (WWE) were very interested in him and invited him to check out their facility. They made him an offer, but we did not accept. Right now he’s pursuing his NBA dream and basketball is the main focus,” says Sunny Gill, Bhamara’s manager.
Bhamara though enthusiastically travelled to Orlando, as he holds the possibility of developing a professional wrestling career once he’s done with playing NBA-level basketball. “Satnam also wanted to see the setup there. It’s a good Plan B to have, once basketball ends for him,” Gill adds. “We told them that right now basketball is the focus, but that he can make a few appearances for them during the off-season. When it does not interfere with basketball.”
With the permission of the Texas Legends (his development league team) management, Bhamara participated in a workout session at the WWE’s facility. “His agent was with him, and that’s a high-level NBA agent. So there was nothing done that could jeopardize his basketball career,” Gill asserts.
At the beginning of the new calendar year, the Texas Legends basketball team were preparing for the 850 mile journey north for their next NBA D-League tie against the Sioux Falls Skyforce. The match was scheduled to take place on January 6, but three days earlier, Legends’ centre Satnam Singh Bhamara, boarded a flight to Orlando, Florida for a non-basketball event. “I Just land (sic) in Orlando big things coming in 2017,” he captioned a photograph uploaded on his instagram account.
The 21-year-old, who in 2015 became the first Indian to get drafted by an NBA franchise — the Dallas Mavericks (subsequently being sent to the Mavericks’ D-League outfit Texas Legends) – made the trip at the behest of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
“Satnam Singh participated in the workouts alongside WWE recruits this week, taking their exploratory steps inside the squared circle,” a statement released by the WWE, said. “Satnam was at the WWE Performance Centre in Orlando for tryouts from January 3. He had a few pro athletes along with him and if selected, he’ll be offered a contract and he’ll become a Superstar of WWE.”
It was clear that the WWE was wooing the Punjab-born cager to enter entertainment wrestling.
While the NBA’s fandom in India is steadily picking up, the WWE has long boasted a great following in the subcontinent. From having their star wrestlers record Diwali greetings, to replica merchandise flooding the Indian markets, and even the fairly recent broadcast of live segments of the organisations’ two weekly showcase events, Raw and Smackdown, the WWE has made significant steps to increasing its Indian fanbase.
The first real delve into that, however, was in 2006, when it signed up seven-footer Dilip Singh Rana to feature as the Great Khali.
Meanwhile the NBA had sought a popularity surge in India through Canadian-born seven-foot-five Sim Bhullar, who became the first player Indian descent to play in the NBA when he turned up for the Sacramento Kings. In Bhamara though, the NBA found a stronger bond with India.
The WWE too has recognised the potential popularity boost the 21-year-old will bring should he jump ship from basketball to entertainment wrestling.
So far, the cager has only featured thrice for the Legends in the 2016-17 season – his last appearance on court coming on December 22, against the Salt Lake City Stars. He did make it to Sioux Falls though with his team. But did not play on January 6, and on the following day against the same opposition. In his debut season, Bhamara spent 150 minutes on court — over 19 games that involved two starts — and scored 29 points.
In the current season, he’s made three substitute appearances — 11 minutes in total — and scored four points. When contacted, NBA India representatives were unaware of Bhamara’s WWE foray, but maintained that he’s still very much associated with basketball.