Sim Bhullar showed promise on the ice growing up, winning several hockey awards until his progress came to an unexpected halt.
“They didn’t make skates my size so I had to stop playing,” he says.
Instead, Bhullar turned his focus to basketball, and last season he became the first player of Indian descent to appear in the NBA.
This season, his playing time with the Raptors 905 keeps going up and he attributes his success to his parents, who migrated to Canada from India so that he could have better opportunities.
“When I told them that I was drafted they (were) really excited for me,” said the 23-year-old from Brampton, Ont. “My dad used to drive an extra hour, he used to drive taxis for 25-30 years. My mom used to drive for 15 hours to US from Toronto till Virginia so that I could play, so they were really supportive.”
Standing tall at seven-foot-five, he says that his father helped him build up his physique from a young age.
“He had a gym in the basement and would work out every day. I would be in there training with him,” said Bhullar. “He was the one who pushed me to train and become a big strong guy, to stay strong from a young age and be fitter than most of the other kids.
“He has had a big influence on me, he enjoyed sports and wanted me to play sports.”
That helped Bhullar become the first player of Indian descent in to play in the NBA when he made three appearances for the Sacramento Kings last season. He was signed by the Raptors 905 in 2015 and is gaining notice.
“He is a player who has shown a ton of improvement over the season, he is really playing good basketball for us and he’s the reason why we have been able to win some games,” said head coach Jesse Mermuys.
Sim has set some goals for himself for the next season even though he stressed that his focus is on playing his best basketball right now, and waiting for a phone call.
“I am working hard and making sure that the coaches notice that,” said Bhullar. “Hopefully by next year I can be in the NBA roster and I have been working all summer for that, so this is a big summer for me.”
The more success Bhullar has, the better chance basketball has of gaining a foothold in South Asia. He’s optimistic the lack of players from Asian in the NBA will soon change.
“Basketball is really new over there. Its young over there, they are just getting the ground system ready,” he said. “I think that they are doing a good job over there in terms of building the players the right way.
“They are skilled and are putting time in the gym. So there is no reason why a few more players can’t come through the D league or NBA level. I feel they are heading in the right direction.”