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The Former Car Salesman Turned Hall of Famer
Despite never playing in, coaching, or broadcasting an NBA game, Nav Bhatia was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this past weekend.
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An esteemed group of former players, coaches, and contributors were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this past weekend, including Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and others.
Michael Jordan spoke on Kobe’s behalf, his wife Vanessa accepted the award, and his daughter Natalia put on the legendary Hall of Fame jacket. It was an awesome weekend.
The part you didn't know?
A former car salesman that has never played, coached, or broadcasted a single professional basketball game was also inducted.
His name is Nav Bhatia, and this is his incredible story.
Nav Bhatia was born and raised in New Delhi, India. But after political unrest caused by the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 made living conditions in India unsafe, Nav Bhatia fled his home country — moving to Canada.
Despite having a degree in mechanical engineering, Nav struggled to find work because of his “long beard, turban, and accent.” He applied to literally hundreds of jobs the first few months. Still, no luck.
Eventually, even though he was severely overqualified, Bhatia settled for a job as a car salesman in the rough part of town.
His mission was simple: “To prove that hard work trumps hate.”
Through a unique combination of hard work, a friendly personality, and some catchy radio ads, Nav Bhatia literally became the best car salesman in Canada. No, seriously. He sold 127 cars in his first 90 days on the job. That’s a record that still stands today.
After proving his worth as a car salesman, Nav Bhatia was later recruited to become the general manager of a different, bigger dealership across town. The business was close to bankruptcy, and the current owner felt Bhatia might help turn it around.
But there was just one problem.
When Bhatia arrived at his new gig, all but one of the current employees quit. They refused to work for him. Rather than sulk in his sorrow, Nav Bhatia did what he always did — he got to work.
Bhatia hired entirely new staff and spent the next few years transforming the near-bankrupt Hyundai dealership into one of the largest car dealerships in all of Canada.
Here’s the best part: Nav Bhatia’s success enabled him to buy not only his current Hyundai dealership but also the original car dealership that hired him in 1984.
Now a self-made millionaire, Nav Bhatia had the financial flexibility to pursue his other passion — basketball.
When the Toronto Raptors were named the NBA’s 28th franchise via league expansion in 1995, Bhatia purchased season tickets. The team was terrible, but Bhatia attended every game. He was the loudest guy in the arena, cheering from start to finish — despite the Raptors being one of the NBA’s worst teams.
In 1998, after years of Nav Bhatia’s loyalty and dedication to the struggling franchise, General Manager Isiah Thomas took notice. He called Bhatia to center court during halftime of a game and bestowed upon him his new official title — Superfan.
The rest, as they say, is history.
There have been 13 losing seasons, blizzards, and even blackouts over the last 25 years of Raptors basketball, yet Nav Bhatia hasn’t missed a single home game. He never leaves early to beat traffic, and he’s still the loudest guy in the arena.
When the Toronto Raptors finally broke through to win their first NBA Championship in 2018, not only did Nav Bhatia become the only fan in NBA history to receive an official championship ring, but the Raptors also included him in the championship parade.
Now, he’s also the first fan to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Here’s what he had to say:
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.
Nav Bhatia faced racism and hate when he arrived in Canada, but his passion for basketball drove all of that away. He has become an icon and celebrity in Toronto. A man who stands for hard work, diversity, inclusion and is beloved by fans, coaches, players, and yes, even Drake.
In the end, this is what sports are all about. They have a unique ability to bring different people, personalities, cultures, races, and religions together, uniting everyone’s passion toward one common goal — winning.
That’s my favorite part.
Have a great day, and we’ll talk tomorrow.
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