Sacramento Kings’ Sim Bhullar became the first person of Indian descent to play in an NBA game. The Indian American makes history when he appeared in the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves for only 16 seconds as the clock wound down in the final quarter.
Still, clearly aware of the moment’s significance, Sacramento fans gave him a standing ovation as he made his way onto the floor.
The 22-year-old Sim Bhullar, was born in Canada after his parents migrated there from Punjab, India.
Sim signed up with an NBA team, joined the Kings last week on a 10-day contract. He played his college ball at New Mexico State, went undrafted and spent this past season playing for the NBA Development League’s Reno Bighorns, where he averaged 10.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.9 blocks.
“I told him to enjoy the ride,” his teammate, Omri Casspi, said, per ESPN.com. “You got 2 billion Indians looking up to you. Be the best role model you can be and have fun with it.”
Casspi was the first Israeli-born player in the NBA, so he certainly had a unique perspective on the moment.
While it remains to be seen if Bhullar will stick with the team beyond this season—at 7’5″, the team would probably love for him to pan out at center—he’ll always have a slice of NBA history to look back on. He’ll also likely become a hero to Indians around the globe.
The NBA has over 100 active players from 37 countries other than the US. While basketball is not as popular in India as it is in other Asian countries—particularly China—it’s quickly growing in popularity there, as it is in many other countries around the world.