TORONTO — Chalk up another accomplishment for high-profile dealer Nav Bhatia, perhaps the most famous car salesman in the world.
The owner of Mississauga Hyundai and Rexdale Hyundai is being honoured by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in a new wing devoted to National Basketball Association super fans.
Bhatia has become popular in the basketball world as the Toronto Raptors’ Superfan. The native of New Delhi, India, has owned multiple season-tickets for the Raptors since their inception in 1995 and has never missed a home game.
Bhatia, who incorporates his link to the Raptors’ into his dealership marketing, has become a celebrity whose motto is: “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t womanize, I Raptorize.”
Bhatia said he couldn’t believe it when Basketball Hall of Fame Chairman Jerry Colangelo told him about the honour.
“This is something you don’t dream of, you keep pinching yourself, I couldn’t sleep the whole night [after receiving the news],” he told Automotive News Canada. “This is not what a fan dreams of. A fan dreams that when the team wins the championship they can take a picture with the NBA trophy and kiss the trophy if they allow you. Only the basketball players when they are 15 or 16 dream of playing in the NBA, and once they do that they want to win the championship, get that nice ring and be part of the championship parade.
Only players, coaches and basketball executives can be inducted into the hall of fame, so Bhatia is being honoured in a new category for super fans, along with the late Penny Marshall.
“God has been so kind to me with the love of the fans, support of the Raptors and the NBA and I’ve done this without touching a ball,” Bhatia said. “They’ve asked me for my turban and my [fan] jersey and they’ll install it in there, and it will be there forever.”
Bhatia is the Raptors’ community ambassador and was given the honour of being the grand marshal for the team’s 2019 NBA Championship celebration in Toronto. He also received same $70,000 championship ring awarded to the players.
Earlier this month, Bhatia’s foundation donated $150,000 for building new basketball courts at a community centre in Malton, Ont.