July 4, 2015

Satnam Singh already in Punjab Olympic Association Hall of Fame and nominated for Arjuna Award

At 19, Satnam Singh Bhamara is just starting to get his feet wet (or his hands sweaty) in the big bouncy world of basketball. The youngster out of the Ballo Ke village is Punjab has played only a handful of senior national team games for India, but has been pretty dominant at the domestic and the junior/youth international levels. Outside of India, he has only played up to the High School level at the IMG Academy in Florida. Despite his behemoth 7-foot-2 size, exceptional basketball skills, and tantalizing potential, his best days are clearly still ahead of him.

So why is this young man already hearing his name mentioned among the highest honours given to Indian athletes? Oh, nothing major really, except for the fact that last week, Satnam did what no one in India's basketball history has ever done: he became the first Indian player to be drafted into the NBA. While his predecessors in the sport spent entire careers in carving out a place for themselves in the game's history, Bhamara took giant leaps to knock history out of the park even before he left his teens.

While the NBA lauds Satnam for breaking a major national barrier in the league, back home in India, there is a proud and expectant fraternity joining in fervently with the applause, too. Just a day after he was drafted, the Punjab Olympic Association (POA) announced that Satnam would be added to their Hall of Fame Bhawan in Mohali, and the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) informed yesterday that they have already recommended Satnam for the Arjuna Award, one of India's highest sporting honours.

According to a report on The Economic Times, the POA's president and Member of Parliament Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa announced that the state's newest basketball star - Satnam - would be honoured for being drafted into the NBA with a special event. The General Secretary of POA, K Raja Sidhu said that a photograph of Satnam with his achievements would be put up at the POA Hall of Fame in Mohali.

Meanwhile, the BFI, who have been embroiled with internal strife in recent months, have used Satnam's success to bring a more positive story out of Indian Basketball into focus. "We have recommended Satnam Singh for the Arjuna Award," said BFI's President K. Govindraj at a press conference, "I hope the Sports Ministry strongly considers this nomination." If Satnam is able to receive this award, he would only be the 19th Indian basketball player in history to do so, following Geethu Anna Jose last year.

In another press release from the BFI concerning Satnam, the federation was quoted lauding the young big's achievement and hope for his return to contribute to Indian basketball, too. "In the future, the BFI will look towards building similar programs for players to have the same opportunity as Satnam," said BFI's Senior VP, Teja Singh Dhaliwal, "It is BFI’s duty to ensure that players are provided every opportunity to develop and showcase their talents across the world, and to fully support our talented youngsters." Govindraj added, “Satnam has already been an inspiration to many of the youth across India, and with his continued success his impact on Indian basketball will be Yao Ming-like. Indian basketball was already on a strong upswing in progress and development and now with the first ever Indian being drafted, it will expedite the growth tremendously. We look forward to Satnam and the other Indians playing professionally abroad to joining the Indian National Team in the future so we continue to show the world the rise of Indian basketball."

It is great to see that India is recognizing Satnam for his huge achievement, but a more cynical eye will comment that these accolades are more to bring prestige to the organizations (POA, BFI) than the player himself. Either way, the more positive attention Satnam receives, the better for Indian Basketball as a whole, and that should ultimately be our sole mission.

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