Gursimran “Sim” Bhullar was only on the court for 16 seconds of game time, but it was enough to make history. As soon as the Kings center checked into a game Tuesday against the Timberwolves, he became the first player of Indian descent to appear in an NBA contest.
Even for fans not paying attention to that angle, Bhullar’s entrance was hard to miss. The New Mexico State product possesses a thick frame and stands 7-foot-5, making him the sixth-tallest player in NBA history.
Bhullar’s parents hail from the Indian state of Punjab, but he was born and raised in Canada. The owner of the Kings, Vivek Ranadivé, was born and raised in Mumbai, and while serving as grand marshal for New York’s India Day parade last year, he marched with the hulking center.
The Kings signed Bhullar, a two-time Western Athletic Conference tournament MVP who went undrafted, to a deal in August. He had been playing for the team’s NBDL affiliate, the Reno Bighorns, when Sacramento gave him a 10-day contract on Thursday.
Bhullar stayed on the bench during his first two games with the Kings, but he finally got on the court during the closing moments of Tuesday’s 116-111 win over Minnesota. He didn’t register any statistical accomplishments during his 16 seconds, but Bhullar’s appearance amounted to an important moment for Ranadivé and the NBA in general, which, not surprisingly, is anxious to increase its popularity among India’s 1.25 billion inhabitants.
In that way, Bhullar has been compared to Yao Ming, who helped the NBA gain traction in China, but whereas Yao was born and raised in that country, Bhullar is from Toronto. So it’s appropriate that he made his NBA debut against the T-wolves, who feature a pair of Canadian No. 1 picks in Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett.
In fact, Bhullar was on the same AAU squad as Bennett, and, in an interview with the NBDL’s Web site, he described his younger brother as “pretty much best friends” with Wiggins. The center also has a Canadian teammate, Nik Stauskas.
It remains to be seen what sort of impact Bhullar makes in the NBA, or if he can even fit into the Kings’ up-tempo style. But the 7-5 giant already has a place in history.