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Will Satnam Singh's ethnicity come in the way of his Basketball career?

A look at the challenges that Satnam could face off the field.


satnam singh bhamara
Satnam Singh Bhamara during a match recently

On the 26th of June, Satnam Singh Bhamara became the first ever Indian player to be drafted in the NBA. Bhamara, who hails from Ballo Ke, a village in Punjab left for Florida 5 years ago.

Satnam had been training at the IMG Academy since 2010, honing his skills with just one goal in mind – to make it to the NBA and five years later, the 7'2 giant was selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the 52nd pick in the 2015 NBA draft. The toil had paid and India had finally got a representation in the most elite league in the world.

If a poll in a website is to believed, then more than 70% of the players playing in the NBA are a part of the African American community while a mere 2% belong to the Asian community.

Clearly this sport is dominated by African-Americans and White Americans as well. But the question is, will Singh's ethnicity get in the way of his basketball career? 

Basketball is a team game and like most other team sports, you have to get along fairly well with your teammates. But if you and the rest of you're team don't speak the same language, will that have an impact on how you play or the type of basketball you play? 

While playing, players don't start chatting or have lengthy conversations about the last movie they saw or something along those lines. They keep communicating, but generally in short sentences or even pass messages by hand gestures. Satnam would certainly be able to communicate with his team mates, on the court, be it in the form of hand gestures or words. 

He has lived abroad long enough to pick up some what of the English language if not most of it.

So what would stop him from having a successful career?

If he has the skill (which he has and is improving on) and if he works hard at it, the world will be with him. But there might be one thing which could hold him back a bit - team bonding off the court. 

Some games are played at home and some are played away. Each team plays 82 games in the regular season (excluding the playoffs) night in and night out. You and you're team are together for at least six months, starting from November - April. That's half the year you are together and actually 'live alongside one another'. 

Considering the fact that you spend half the year with a bunch of people whom you call your teammates, it would make sense if you are comfortable and have a good relationship with your teammates.

Remember what I said about how players won't talk about the last movie they saw while playing a game? While travelling, during flights and in busses, this is the time they would chit-chat about such things.

In the below video, former Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin  speaks about the road games in the league.

And with Satnam belonging from a different culture and a different background, there is a possibility he could feel a little out of place at times. 

Satnam’s father is a farmer and for most of his life, he grew up in a small village which is home to a few hundred people. And now?  he meets a few hundred people a day. Be it by the media or fans; people are everywhere he goes.

Let’s consider a hypothetical situation: Satnam was fluent in the English language when he joined the IMG Academy.

Does this mean he would be a better basketball player? No. What I’m trying to say is, basketball is a fast paced game which requires little communication while playing, which Singh is more than capable of doing.

But off the court, if Satnam could maintain a healthy relationship with his teammates, he could possibly play better basketball with them.

However, his ability to do so might not be fully there as he isn’t ‘one of them’. By that I mean he may watch Bollywood films which his team mates wouldn’t watch, he could be listening to Punjabi music which his teammates wouldn’t listen to.

Or then again I could be completely wrong and he could be watching the latest Hollywood movies and be listening to the latest Billboard hits. With this, he would have plenty to talk about and build a healthy relationship with his team mates.  

It all depends on the type of person Satnam is which would impact his ability to bond with the team and the basketball he plays.

NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan didn’t necessarily get along too well with his team mates off the court, but they won six rings together. Also, it took some time for Jordan to start trusting his team mates and when he did, great things happened.

There are a few things we can take away from this video. Welcome Satnam with an open mind, pass the ball to him and you never know, great things can happen!

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