Bhatia’s commitment to the Canadian NBA team is so undeniable that former Raptors general manager Isiah Thomas, bestowed upon Bhatia with the title of “Superfan” back in 1999. However, what really has people interested in Bhatia is not only his passion for his home team, but the inspiring story behind it.
Bhatia’s story went viral earlier this week when journalist Muhammad Lila wrote about him in a Twitter thread. According to the post, he came to Canada as an immigrant with practically nothing 34 years ago. While he did have an engineering degree, he couldn’t find a suitable job in the 1980s.
Bhatia came to Canada as an immigrant in the ‘80s with almost nothing. As a brown turbaned guy with an accent he couldn’t get a job as an engineer, so he wound up working as a car salesman at dealership in a rough part of town.
“As a brown turbaned guy with an accent he couldn’t get a job as an engineer, so he wound up working as a car salesman at a dealership in a rough part of town.”
He sold 127 cars in just ninety days. It’s a record that stands to this day. He did it the old-fashioned way, by being honest (and yes, some catchy radio ads). He was so good that he eventually bought the dealership. Crazy, right.
The post highlighted how talented he was at his job – selling a record of 127 cars in just 90 days. That record reportedly remains standing to this day. He soon became the general manager of a dealership and eventually bought it himself. He now owns multiple car dealerships.
He later bought another.
Back in 1995, when the businesses weren’t doing well, he still bought season’s tickets. They cost a lot, but he didn’t care. He loved the team. Even those ugly purple dinosaur logos. He wore them with pride. pic.twitter.com/b2Yt9LqKis
His success in sales allowed him to afford a hobby, which is why he was able to attend the first game in Raptors history on Nov. 3, 1995. That night he saw his home team deliver a 94-79 victory against New Jersey.
Despite the many low points of the Raptors’ NBA campaign through the years, Bhatia’s loyalty remained unwavering, USA Today reports.
If you go to a Raps game, you’ll see his big ass huge goofy smile, on the baseline.
When you’re an immigrant, nothing feels more Canadian than waving a Canadian flag while cheering your team. Sports is the great equalizer. pic.twitter.com/2S4pP1dZo8
Bhatia recalled getting mistaken for a cab driver while getting his phone fixed at a store back in 1999. Instead of responding to the person’s ignorance, he decided to try and turn the experience into something positive.
When his dealerships started doing better, he could’ve called it a day.
Instead, every year he spends $300K of his own money to send kids – mostly from brown, immigrant families – to Raptors games.
“I went to the Raptors and bought 3,000 tickets and brought kids from a cross-section of the community,” he said. “I wanted all kinds of kids to sit together and integrate with each other so they don’t have to go through what I was going through at that time. It was ‘How do I change that perception?’ “
Basketball can be more than just a game.
When the finals tip-off on Thursday, the world is going to see Toronto being Toronto: Diverse, strong, caring.
And there’ll be a 67-year old Sikh turbaned guy leading the charge.
Bhatia’ has not only endeared himself to Raptors fans but also became a local celebrity as the Raptors’ official “Community Ambassador,” landing endorsement deals and generating thousands of followers on social media.
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