Satnam Singh Bhamara was born in a small village called Ballo Ke in the Barnala district of Punjab with a population of just 800 people. His father and both his grandfathers were wheat farmers, and everyone expected him to follow in their footsteps.
Satnam’s father Balbir grew up to be the tallest person in the village and citing his great height as an advantage all the village folk advised him to take up the sport of basketball in one of the bigger cities. The sport, however, received little interest in the country compared to other sports like cricket, field hockey and football. Hence Balbir’s father advised him to follow in his footsteps as a farmer.
Satnam, the second son of Balbir, was almost the same height as most of the adults in the village by the age of 9. Balbir did not want to make the same mistake with Satnam. So he decided to take Satnam to a local basketball court. After initially struggling to grasp the concept of the sport, Satnam began to improve fast. Singh continued to play using a hoop his father put up in a small courtyard near his house. The villagers, who would often come to watch him play gave him the nickname “Chhotu” which meant “little one” in his native tongue, as his rapid growth made the basketball shrink in size.
This was the start of a great story for Satnam Singh Bhamara. Little did he know back then that he would be creating history for his country somewhere down the line. He kept improving and soon he was accepted to the Ludhiana Basketball Academy (LBA) where he was trained for the first time in basketball by former Punjab basketball coach and Sports Authority of India Director Dr Sankaran Subramanian. Such was his uncanny growth in size that when he was 13 years old, Singh was 6 ft 11 in tall, 230 lb and wore size-18 shoes.
As he began to get more exposure in professional basketball and the National Basketball Association (NBA), he began to idolise stars such as Kobe Bryant and tried modelling his game after world class Centres such as Yao Ming and Dwight Howard.
His progress continued until eventually in the summer of 2009, Satnam received an invitation from the Indian Youth national basketball team who were set to play at the 2009 FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. He accepted the offer, and he even made the squad. However, he failed to dominate the more skilled and experienced opposition and was hence rewarded with little to no playing time throughout the game. But he continued to strive until he received his first call-up to play for the Indian National Basketball Team in 2011 at the tender age of 16. He represented India for the first time in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championships before repeating his feet in the 2013 edition of the same tournament.
But this was just the start, his stature, pose, and performances for India soon helped him gain international recognition. He declared himself for the 2015 NBA draft to play in the USA with some of the greats in the game and the very names he idolised while growing up. His dream came true with the 52nd pick in the draft, the Dallas Mavericks of Texas drafted young Satnam into the NBA and history was made. The young boy from Punjab has now become the first ever Indian to get drafted into the NBA. Not only that, with this pick, he became the first player since the 2005 NBA draft to enter the draft without playing at the college level, overseas as a pro or in the NBA Development League. He is also the first player to be drafted directly from high school as a postgraduate and the first player directly from the high school level to be drafted since the league instituted age restrictions.
The experienced heads of the world game recognised the potential of the Punjab native and young Satnam, through sheer hard work and dedication, has now made it to the world stage hopefully carving the way for more to follow from his country.