After 24 years of religiously following every Toronto Raptors game, the Indian Canadian superfan gets to see his favorite team raise its banners for the first time in franchise history.
The late Stephen Covey said that there are three constants in life: change, choice and principles. Perhaps, had he been a basketball fan, he may have added: Nav Bhatia sitting courtside at a Toronto Raptors home game.
Since 1995, when Bhatia attended his first Raptors game, the 67-year old superfan has yet to miss a home game. A fan as old as the franchise itself, Bhatia has been cheering for his Raptors for the last 24 years.
Immigrating to Canada in 1984 to escape violence in Punjab, which was in the middle of a separatist insurgency, Bhatia arrived with no job and little to his name. After months of job-searching with no luck, he finally found his big break when he was offered a job as a car salesman at a Hyundai dealership, and just like Kawhi Leonard, Bhatia made an instant impact, selling a record number of cars in his first three months of working.
Now a millionaire, Bhatia has been a witness to the Vince Carter, Chris Bosh, and Demar Derozan era of Toronto basketball; a witness to the countless rebuilds; a witness to the all of the struggles and triumphs his team faced; and now finally, a witness to a championship. Bhatia has stuck with his team through the thick and the thin.
In fact, last night’s victory over the back-to-back championship winning Golden State Warriors could not have been more poetic, not just for Bhatia, but for nearly everyone involved.
It has stopped a potential threepeat for the dynastic Golden State Warriors squad — who had won three championships in the four years prior and who have now made five consecutive finals appearances — Raptors have brought parity back into the league.
It has solidified Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard’s legacy among the upper echelon of NBA greats. A man who had been doubted for the past two seasons for supposedly quitting on his old team, and now a man who has effectively stopped two dynasties (three if you count the San Antonio Spurs).
A Canadian immigrant fan watching his adopted country’s basketball team win its first ever championship in a league dominated by American teams. A team that couldn’t have won without major contributions from players with backgrounds from Cameroon, Spain, the Republic of Congo, England and China.
Thursday night belonged as much to Bhatia, as to Pascal Siakim, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, OG Anunoby and Jeremy Lin.