This week Nav Bhatia became the first fan ever inducted to the NBA Hall Of Fame. That is an incredible accomplishment in itself, but it’s just one of the remarkable moments of Bhatia’s incredible life, one that saw him go from fleeing violence in his native India to becoming one of the most successful car salesmen in Canadian history.
Bhatia fled home after anti-Sheik violence erupted in 1984. He immigrated to Canada but quickly learned his appearance — his full beard and turban, which are worn for religious reasons in the Sheik community — was off-putting to ’80s Canadians. He couldn’t find work with his mechanical engineering degree so, desperate, he took the only job he could get: at a car lot in a rough part of Toronto. Sports journalist Joe Pompilano details what happened next:
According to this interview from the CBC, he then moved on to bigger car dealerships. At his next gig, all the employees quit save one quit when he was introduced as the general manager. He ended up pulling that dealership back from the brink of bankruptcy and eventually becoming successful enough to outright buy the first and second places that hired him.
Bhatia’s hard work paid off. He’s now a multi-millionaire and, when the Toronto Raptors were founded in 1995, he used some of that hard-won wealth to buy season tickets. Every year, for the last 26 years, no matter how badly the team performed, Bhatia has never missed a home game. And in 26 years, he still has never missed a single home game.
At 69-years-old, Bhatia is still going to games and now sponsors kids of all races, religions and socio-economic levels to attend Raptors games. He’s still the loudest voice in the arena and after the Raptor’s 2019 NBA Championship, he was given a championship ring to commemorate his devotion to the team, NBA.ca reports. Here’s what Bhatia said after his Hall of Fame induction ceremony, according to Pompilano:
Here’s 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 each day. Thank you, mom.”