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First Fan Inducted Into NBA Hall Of Fame Spends $300K A Year To Send Kids To NBA Games

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame opened its doors to honor Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and the late Kobe Bryant last week — and it also honored Nav Bhatia.

Bhatia may not be a household name, but if you’re in Toronto, you likely know him as the Raptors Superfan.

He’s been a fixture since the team started up in 1995, and during the Raptors’ championship season in 2019, he featured in a commercial for Tim Hortons, one of Canada’s most beloved brands.

And now, he’s the first-ever fan to be welcomed into the Hall of Fame.

He’s not just a superfan, though: He leads the Superfan Foundation, which engages in a number of endeavors to improve life for Canadians and people all over the world.

As NBA.com noted in its article on him, his non-profit aims to “bringing communities together through the game of basketball,” adding that, “Bhatia is committed to building and resurfacing basketball courts in Canada with the first scheduled to come in Malton — a community where he first started his journey in Canada.”

“We are building basketball courts here in the Malton, Toronto area, so that the kids don’t waste the time on the drugs and energy in the groups and gangs,” he said. “So they can go and play basketball and get displayed.”

Joe Pompliano, in a tweet thread telling Bhatia’s story, noted that the 69-year-old hasn’t missed a single home game (not counting, of course, “home” games played in the U.S. due to the pandemic). It also lauded him for letting others experience home games along with him.

“My favorite part?” he asked rhetorically. “Nav Bhatia spends $300k annually to send thousands of kids to Raptors games. He intentionally makes people from different backgrounds — black, white, brown, rich, poor, Christian, Muslim —sit next to each other.”

In the early stages of the pandemic, Bhatia did meal deliveries in the Toronto metro area through a program called Meals on the Move, and documented it on his Instagram account.

He’s even, though World Vision Canada, helped girls in India get an education.

And to commemorate his acceptance into the Hall of Fame, he took to Twitter to share sentiments about being proud of his culture. His turban is part of the display that also includes the original Superfan jersey that basketball great Isiah Thomas gave him in 1998 while an executive with the then-new club.

He wrote, “I made a promise as a kid to my mom I would never remove my turban. Today it is in the Hall of Fame. Embrace what makes you different. It is your superpower. This is the crown I wear each day. Thank you mom.”

In responses to Bhatia, some expressed that Bhatia was the first person they’d even seen wear a turban.

“As a practicing immigrant of Sikh faith, because of my turban and beard I have been on the receiving end of many discriminatory remarks,” said Bhatia in a BlogTo article.

“Basketball has helped me not only be confident with who I am but also has helped me to change the views of many towards South Asians. As we sit together to watch the game we love and cheer on our home team we realize we are more alike than different.”

Written by Phil West