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Move Over, Kawhi and Drake: Toronto Superfan Nav Bhati Steals NBA Spotlight

TORONTO, Ca. (FNN SPORTS) – Now that the Toronto Raptors have clawed their way to the NBA Finals, more eyes are on the team than ever before, but more specifically on the team’s Superfan (and no, it’s not Drake): faithful fan and 67-year-old sikh Nav Bhati. Thanks to CNN journalist Muhammad Lila’s Twitter thread unfolding Bhati’s story over the weekend, millions of people are getting to know Toronto’s most consistent fan, who has never missed a single home game since 1995.

Bhati epitomizes the rags-to-riches story of perseverance and paying it forward. His is the kind of soul-stirring origin that U.S. politicians and candidates would typically use as an example of “The American Dream,” except in Bhati’s case, it happened in Canada.

Bhati’s story, like many immigrant stories, starts with him arriving in Toronto with next to nothing, and as a brown, turban-wearing sikh, opportunities were scarce for him. But like many immigrants, when given an opportunity, he accomplished massively. He got his start working for a car dealership and managed to sell 127 cars in ninety days, and still holds that record to this day. He later went on to own the dealership he worked for, and now owns two.

During those early years, he decided to buy season tickets to the Toronto games, despite them being costly for him, and despite how unattractive the team logo was back in the ’90s. He was faithful.

Bhati doesn’t only support the Raptors at home, either. When the Orlando Magic snapped their seven-year absence from the NBA Playoffs and hosted the Raptors at Amway Center for games 3 and 4 in Round 1, Bhati was here for them too. He stood out so much that FNN News publisher Willie David had to go over and meet him firsthand. David reports that Bhati even exchanged barbs with an Orlando superfan in Game 3 (above).

Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia put the spotlight on diversity and inclusion on the NBA sidelines at Amway Center when the Toronto Raptors faced the Orlando Magic in Round 1, Game 3 of the Playoffs Friday, April 19, 2019. Photo by Willie David / Florida National News

Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia put the spotlight on diversity and inclusion on the NBA sidelines at Amway Center when the Toronto Raptors faced the Orlando Magic in Round 1, Game 3 of the Playoffs Friday, April 19, 2019. Photo by Willie David / Florida National News

 

Toronto's Kawhi Leonard (left) and former Orlando Magic player Serge Ibaka (#9, foreground) double-team Orlando Magic's Michael Carter-Williams in Round 1, Game 3 of the NBA Playoffs at Amway Center Friday, April 19, 2019. Photo by Willie David / Florida National News

Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard (left) and former Orlando Magic player Serge Ibaka (#9, foreground) double-team Orlando Magic’s Michael Carter-Williams in Round 1, Game 3 of the NBA Playoffs at Amway Center Friday, April 19, 2019. Photo by Willie David / Florida National News

Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia checks the Amway Center scoreboard during Round 1, Game 3 of the NBA Playoffs Friday, April 19, 2019. Photo by Willie David / Florida National News

Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia checks the Amway Center scoreboard during Round 1, Game 3 of the NBA Playoffs Friday, April 19, 2019. Photo by Willie David / Florida National News

Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia stood out at Amway Center when the Toronto Raptors faced the Orlando Magic in Round 1, Game 3 of the Playoffs Friday, April 19, 2019. Photo by Willie David / Florida National News

Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia stood out at Amway Center when the Toronto Raptors faced the Orlando Magic in Round 1, Game 3 of the Playoffs Friday, April 19, 2019. Photo by Willie David / Florida National News

Bhati’s star power doesn’t lie in his faithful attendance, though. The Golden State Warriors have Sweetie, an African American centenarian who has been a loyal fan as well. Bhati’s appeal lies in his drive to pay it forward. Once he began to earn more income, he made a point to sponsor underprivileged and minority youth in Toronto to attend the home games and introduce them to the players to let them know that they too belong.

Bhati’s story inspired Golden State head coach Steve Kerr to retweet Lila’s thread, bringing Bhati’s story to millions more people here in the U.S. who loyally follow Kerr. “This is fantastic,” Kerr tweeted. “Read through the thread. Great stuff.”

When the opposing team’s head coach can retweet your story, that’s saying something.

Now that Bhati’s story is in the limelight, when the NBA Finals tipoff on Thursday, 37 million Canadians and millions more Americans will be cheering loudly–not necessarily for the Raptors’ victory, but certainly for Bhati’s.

___________________________________________

Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | mellissa.thomas@floridanationalnews.com

 

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