Satnam Singh RumorsAll NBA Players
This summer, Satnam Singh will return to the homeland to represent the Indian national basketball team in the FIBA Asia Championship. “In the last three years when I was drafted to Dallas, I’ve never been back home,” he said. “Becoming the first Indian-born player who gets drafted, other kids they can see we have a great opportunity, we can go play in the NBA.”
In this sleepy Punjabi village, no one was surprised to see a seven-foot-tall Sikh farmer striding the narrow lanes toward the local Sikh temple on June 25. The farmer, Balbir Singh Bamrah, is a familiar presence in Ballo Ke, and something of a local curiosity. But the other worshipers at the temple, known as a gurudwara, were a bit perplexed by the prayer the guru offered for Balbir Singh’s household. He stood over the farmer, his wife and his daughter, and prayed for peace, prosperity, health — and that Balbir Singh’s son would be drafted. “They didn’t understand what the N.B.A. draft was,” said Sarabjot Kaur, Balbir Singh’s 23-year-old daughter. “They only realized later.”
Balbir Singh, 56, said his son’s success was a fitting cap to a decade of work and training. “Basketball is God’s gift,” he said in a rumbling baritone, while greeting a stream of visitors and answering calls on a cellphone dwarfed by his huge hands. “Everything that’s happened to him, all the acclaim, is from basketball,” he said.
The men at the Ballo Ke shrine offer a different explanation, one reflective of a hard edge in an otherwise rejoicing village. They say the crucial factor was the family’s link to Amarinder Singh, the former chief minister of Punjab State, who visited the village as agriculture minister in the 1980s and struck up a friendship with Balbir Singh, even inviting him and his family to his daughter’s wedding. “It is all because of his favor,” said Mukhtiar Singh, one of the men. Another, Nirmal Singh, said that without that kind of advantage, such a success story is “not just difficult, it’s impossible.”
Next season he will play for the Texas Legends, the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate, so he can continue to develop. Steven Kyler of Basketball Insiders tells Mavs Moneyball that the Legends will bring in former Maverick DeSagana Diop to mentor and work with Singh. It’s too early to know how Singh will develop. However, the Mavericks appear to be genuinely invested in his progress. As for Singh, he already feels that he is up to the challenge. “I think it’s good to work with these guys,” he said about his teammates and coaches. “When I was here [in the first game] and we were really close with some D-League [players] I said, ‘Of course I can play with these guys. My body is ready for these guys … I’m here. I’m ready.'”