The story behind the first non-player NBA Hall of Fame inductee

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No Standing loves a feel good story about working hard and embracing a new culture and we love our NBA. When we heard the first ever non-player was inducted into the hall of fame we had to dig a little deeper.

The name Nav Bhatia might seem foreign to some people but Stateside he is well known as the NBA superfan of The Toronto Raptors, the only Canadian side in the league.

In the same year Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and G.O.A.T. Kobe Bryant (plus many more) were inducted into the Hall of Fame, a former car salesman that had never stepped foot in an NBA roster, never coached a team or any game, also joined this prestigious group and we can’t get enough of the story.

It goes something like this.

Let’s go back to 1984, the year one of co-founders Richy was born, a 34 year old Nav Bhatia has to flee his own country of India due to political turmoil, and he ends up migrating to Toronto, Ontario.

Now, this guy is smart, he has an engineering degree, but he faced some shitty profiling and struggles to get a job due to his turban and long beard. Countless knockbacks in his field, the poor bloke is on the receiving end of hundreds of rejections, but he doesn’t give up and accepts a job as a car salesman.

Everything has gone against this guy but he shows true resilience. He is way over qualified and is working in a dodgy area but he was a man on a mission… he’s out there turning over a new leaf to life proving that “hard work and dedication trumps hate”.

Now we’re told that this approach to life is starting to pay off after only 3 months…  The guy is a genuine networker and people person so he doesn’t even feel like he is selling, he’s just offering people great service, after all, he’s in a service based industry.

With a good spiel, some catchy radio ads and his electric charm this bloke sells 127 cars in under 90 days and sets a record that has never been broken since. After exceeding all expectations in his first role, Nav is poached by a competitor brand and takes a new role as the GM of a larger dealership on the other side of Toronto.

The business was in a bad way, on its last legs and the current owner believed Bhatia could be the new leaf it needed, but there was another hurdle. When Nav arrived at his new role, ALL of the current employees packed it up and resigned leaving the business in a real pickle.

These people in a sinking ship didn’t want to work for Nav because of their bigoted points of view. Their loss, Nav with a good attitude got to work. Nav rebuilt the whole business from the ground up and things started to turn, this guy was the tipping point.

Fast forward a few years and that near bankrupt car dealership was the largest in all of Canada. I mean you couldn’t script this shit. Bhatia ended up buying that dealership and the OG that gave him a chance in 84…

So now after a decade of working hard starting with literally nothing this bloke is a self made millionaire and he built a great team around him. Now, Nav has financial stability and security and with a little extra time on his hands he pursues his other passion. The NBA. This is where the Raptors come into play. 

In 95 The Toronto Raptors became the 28th franchise of the NBA and Nav purchased season tickets. The team was average and would have been hard to support but Nav didn’t care, he went to every game. He was the loudest dude, first in and last out supporting his beloved city.

The business was in a bad way, on its last legs and the current owner believed Bhatia could be the new leaf it needed, but there was another hurdle. When Nav arrived at his new role, ALL of the current employees packed it up and resigned leaving the business in a real pickle.

These people in a sinking ship didn’t want to work for Nav because of their bigoted points of view. Their loss, Nav with a good attitude got to work. Nav rebuilt the whole business from the ground up and things started to turn, this guy was the tipping point.

Fast forward a few years and that near bankrupt car dealership was the largest in all of Canada. I mean you couldn’t script this shit. Bhatia ended up buying that dealership and the OG that gave him a chance in 84…

So now after a decade of working hard starting with literally nothing this bloke is a self made millionaire and he built a great team around him. Now, Nav has financial stability and security and with a little extra time on his hands he pursues his other passion. The NBA. This is where the Raptors come into play. 

In 95 The Toronto Raptors became the 28th franchise of the NBA and Nav purchased season tickets. The team was average and would have been hard to support but Nav didn’t care, he went to every game. He was the loudest dude, first in and last out supporting his beloved city.

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In 1998, the GM of the then struggling Raptors Isiah Thomas took notice of this fan that was the real deal…. He’d never seen a supporter so loyal and dedicated to his city team. Isiah called him out to the whole franchise and took Bhatia onto centre court during a half time game and gave him the accolade of his new official title as Superfan.

As you could imagine Nav lost his shit.

25 years later this guy has never missed a home game. Cancelled flights, black outs, blizzards, even when the city came to a halt this guy turned up for his Raptors. Even at 69 years old he is the loudest and proudest in the stadium.

When the Raptors took home the cookies beating GSW in 2018/2019 season, Nav became the only fan in history to not play a game but he received a championship ring, and we bloody love it. He participated in the parade and as mentioned earlier, he is now an official member of the Hall of Fame sitting next to the late, great Kobe Bryant. Mind blowing.

This is what Nav said after being inducted.

“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 everyday. Thank you, Mom”

Pretty moving stuff.

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But it doesn’t end there. Nav spends close to half a million dollars every year to send underprivileged kids to Raptors games. He takes people from all walks of life – black, white, pink, green, poor, Christian, muslim all sit amongst one another.

His ethos is everyone is on the same level and this is his way to bring communities together and share the common joy watching the NBA.

At the end of the day sport has a unique ability to bring all walks of life together. Different people, personalities, cultures, when that ball is being moved down the court or shot from downtown nothing else matters. It is essentially paused, everything in time stops and you only care about what’s happening in front of you… hopefully your side taking the cake.

Nav Bhatia, take a bow, your incredible story has gone viral and it really touched our hearts here in Collingwood, over 16,000 kms away from Toronto…. We salute you!

Richard Penny
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Richard Penny
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