Raptors’ superfan Nav Bhatia named to basketball Hall of Fame

Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia is the first fan ever inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

That’s the general reaction to news that Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia is the first fan ever inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Bhatia is a familiar figure to basketball fans, a fixture at every Raptors home game in his courtside seats — the biggest cheerleader the team has ever had.

On a whim, Bhatia bought two tickets to the team’s very first game back in 1995 and never looked back. He hasn’t missed a home game for the team’s entire existence.

The Hall of Fame recognition, while unique, is not his first honour. Bhatia was given a 2019 Championship ring when the Raptors won it all, and now he’s balancing that ring with the new one given to celebrate his place in the Hall of Fame.

Bhatia can be seen in current photos sporting the two massive sport honours knuckle-dusters, one on each hand.

His championship ring and his distinctive turban are among the Bhatia items displayed in the Hall of Fame; his courtside seat and even the jersey first designating him a Superfan, given him by the team in 1998, are also included.

On Sunday, Bhatia received the Hall of Fame honours at the opening of the James Goldstein Superfan Gallery in Springfield, Mass.

There are about 400 inductees in the Basketball Hall of Fame and, prior to COVID, more than 200,000 fans visit annually.

On Sunday, Bhatia tweeted:

“Today was a dream.

In the greatest building basketball has, the name Superfan Nav Bhatia will be immortalized. There is now a turban and the first fan honoured within Naismith Basketball Hall Of Fame. I am overcome with emotions today.”

As Bhatia told CTV news on Monday: “I’m still pinching myself.”

Bhatia has joked that his devotion to the Raptors is an addiction — but in fact, it’s a gift. Every year, he buys about 3,000 game tickets to give to kids in the Sikh community and many other community groups across the GTA; he founded the Superfan Foundation in 2018 as a way to unite people through sport. 

Bhatia came to Canada in 1984. Notwithstanding the country’s reputation for diversity and inclusion, he heard plenty of racial slurs and ignorant comments as a newcomer, but consistently rose above it.

One of the few jobs the mechanical engineer could find here was selling cars; according to his Wikipedia page, he set a sales record that still stands (127 cars in 90 days) and quickly moved up the corporate ladder to manager, partner and then sole owner. He owns two hugely successful Hyundai dealerships and employs about 200 people.

In 2018, he received a Royal Bank of Canada Top 25 Canadian Immigrants Award, an honour given to those who contribute to the Canadian economy, to Canadian society and to Canada overall.

  1. Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia, right, with Jerry Colangelo in Chicago during NBA All-Star Game weekend. (Push Marketing Group)

    WARMINGTON: Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia one Hall of a guy

  2. None

    Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia turns racist tweet into a positive: "That's what I like to do."

  3. Nav Bhatia dresses as Santa on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020.

    WARMINGTON: He's known as Superfan, but you can call him Super Santa

Bhatia’s enthusiasm for the Raptors is contagious. He and Drake are the team’s best-known fans, and Bhatia’s endless joy over the team’s success — and his unflagging support even when they are not in the playoffs —is an inspiration to all Raptors’ followers.

As he said of his induction into the Hall of Fame, “I am taking every basketball fan with me.”

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