By Meghna Pant, Features Editor
In our country, women are left with few choices for pin-up boys. There’s Hrithik Roshan, perhaps Ranbir Kapoor, and – for the off-kilter – Rahul Gandhi. But outside the neta and abhineta there is very little choice. Therefore, it’s exciting to finally have a new pin-up boy who is tall, dark, handsome, and – more so – a boy who has done the impossible.
At only 19, Satnam Singh, a lanky lad from a small village in Punjab, has become the first Indian hoopster to play in the NBA, the world’s best basketball league.
Satnam is a rare combination of size and talent. He is 7’2’’, 290 pounds and wears a size-22 basketball shoe. He earns as much as a mid-level Indian cricketer, and stands to earn more than Dhoni within the next five years.
Through all this, the most impressive thing that remains about Satnam is his journey. This son of a wheat farmer grew up in a small village in Punjab, which didn’t have a basketball court, leave alone any players. Satnam had only two advantages. He came from a family of freakishly tall people, so by the age of 11 he had already attained a towering presence of 6’5’’. And his father Balbir Singh, who is 7’4’’, had nursed the ambition of being a basketball player and projected his unfulfilled ambition onto his son with faith, commitment and zeal.
Thus, Satnam was enrolled in the Ludhiana Basketball Academy, where – in tattered shoes – he learnt the basics of playing basketball. By 2009, at the age of 14, Satnam had made it to the national junior team. He was then recommended by the head of the Basketball Federation of India, Harish Sharma, for a scholarship by IMG Reliance, and selected to go to school at the IMG Basketball Academy in Florida. This was the same place where Satnam’s idol Kobe Bryant, and many stalwarts like Chauncey Billups and Vince Carter, had been trained.
Despite many challenges like not speaking a word of English or living in a faraway foreign land or possessing largely raw unpolished talent, Satnam worked relentlessly and was drafted as the No. 52 pick by the Dallas Mavericks, making him a sensation in the international world of basketball.
Through all this, Satnam remains a sweet and caring boy who loves his family. Not surprisingly then, the first thing Satnam plans to do with his newfound money is to buy a car for his parents. “I’m going to give my parents every little and lavish thing. My Dad and Mom gave me everything. Now it’s my turn,” he says.
Satnam’s victories, his humility and simplicity, have put the spotlight on basketball. Indians are not transfixed with the sport – perhaps because of our build or our fixation with cricket – but Satnam has become the poster boy for middle-class and small-town basketball aspirants, and – of course – the millions of Indian women who’d aspire to get the hand that shoots the loop.
Picture Credit: AmericanOnline