December 7, 2016

Satnam Singh documentary "One in a Billion" is now streaming on Netflix worldwide!


Here's a pitch for a movie: a poor farmer's son from rural India learns basketball and becomes the first of a country of 1.3 billion to be drafted into the NBA.

The summary, if this was a piece of fiction, sounds too improbable to be realistic. But the truth is often stranger than fiction, and over the last decade, that story actually took place: Satnam Singh, the son of a farmer from Ballo Ke village in Punjab, used both nature (his size) and nurture (hard work) to make history when the Dallas Mavericks picked him in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Released worldwide to stream on Netflix on December 6, 2016, "One in a Billion" tells Satnam's comprehensive story so far in great detail. The documentary was produced by OBB Pictures and directed by Roman Gackowski. For a year and a half of filming, Gackowski followed Satnam as he finished his time at the IMG Basketball Academy, got drafted to the NBA, and visited his village in Punjab. He also interviewed several close individuals connected with Satnam's story from this childhood, his education, and his professional career.

If you know Indian basketball, you know the ending of the story already. "One in a Billion" takes us back to the beginning. It brings to screen the surreal story behind Satnam's real life. Some of the strongest moments are when the documentary crew follows him into the hinterlands of Punjab as he visits his family, introduces his friends, and lays on the very farm he grew up in. These scenes are juxtaposed with scenes a few months later at the IMG Academy, one of the finest facility of youth sports development around the world. The documentary introduces viewers to Satnam's family, his coaches, teachers, and his agent. We see him direct the way deep into his Punjabi village. We see agent Travis King's pitch to Satnam, we see him visit draft combines and get suited up for the draft, perform at pre-draft workouts with various teams in the NBA.

One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when Satnam - who has struggled in IMG because of his weak English proficiency - realises that his English has now become good enough to converse freely. "I just wanted to keep talking," he says joyfully. Of course, the moment at the Barclay's Center in New York City when NBA Deputy Commissioner drafts Satnam into the NBA is Satnam and the film's crowning moment.

Also featured in the film are individuals who have played a role in the life of Satnam or in basketball at large over the years, including NBA India's former Director of Operations Troy Justice, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, IMG Academy Basketball coach Dan Barto, IMG Academy and former India national team coach Kenny Natt, basketball agent Travis King, Secretary-General of Punjab Basketball Association Teja Singh Dhaliwal, owner of the Sacramento Kings Vivek Ranadive, VP of Kings' basketball operations Vlade Divac, Satnam's family, including his father Balbir, and many more. As I have been tracking Satnam's story closely for several years and offer an international perspective on Indian basketball, I was featured in the documentary as well.

Satnam Singh, however, is the of course the star of the documentary. Through old photographs, stories, footage, and the lead-up to draft day, the documentary paints the picture of a young man who stood up to the responsibility of shouldering a moment in history. Satnam says early in the movie, citing the responsibilities his father told he has for his family and India, that "It's a lot!" The documentary shows a humble young man going out into the big world of NBA basketball where everyone except himself seemed to have a well-carved space. Satnam, instead, created his own space, breaking through the giant wall with his 7-foot frame and coming out on the other side as an ever-smiling, ever-vulnerable, gentle giant.

Go and watch "One in a Billion" now! If you already know the story, it will open your eyes to understand the man in the middle, the details of his struggles, and the joy of his triumph. And if you don't know it yet, well, get ready for an inspirational tale, against all the odds, of an Indian star's success.

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