SAITAMA – Nav Bhatia, who is known as the “Super Fan” for the Toronto Raptors, was seen in the end zone at the two-game NBA Japan Games series between the Canadian team and Houston Rockets on Tuesday and Thursday in Tokyo.
In fact, he was an attraction for some of the Japanese fans before the games as they would line up to take photos with him, who puts on his signature turban and a Raptors authentic jersey with “Super Fan” letters on the back.
Before he came to Japan, Bhatia also visited his native India, where the NBA hosted its first-ever games in the country with a matchup between the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings. He was thrilled with the vibes that the arena created in the country where he spent his youthhood.
“It was good,” the Delhi native said before Thursday’s game. “Because in India, cricket is the religion. Cricket is very big. And basketball is new there, so it was amazing to see and the energy was very high.
Bhatia said that the mood at the games in Japan was “a different level” from that in India.
“Japanese people are the best,” said Bhatia, who moved to Toronto in 1984. “They are so polite and so good. And Japan is so beautiful. I love it.”
He added that he was surprised to know he has his own followers in the country, too.
“I didn’t know that I have that many fans in Japan,” Bhatia, who’s an owner of two car dealerships, said with a smile. “I go on the streets and people come and hug me. So it’s beautiful and it’s so nice.”
Bhatia said that he “didn’t used to watch basketball that much.” But since the formation of the Raptors in 1995, he has attended every home game of the team and has eventually become a famous fan figure.
Bhatia was pleased to have made the trip to Asia and was proud of seeing his team hitting different courts from the team’s home gym, Scotiabank Arena and other NBA home courts.
“It’s amazing, it’s very good to be part of the team in such as big arena. There’s so many, thousands and thousands of people,” Bhatia, who runs a non-profit Nav Bhatia Superfan Foundation to raise money to build basketball courts and camps for children in Canada and around the world, said in an excited tone of voice. “That’s what basketball is (all about). Basketball brings everybody together. Basketball doesn’t see the nationality. Basketball doesn’t see the gender. Basketball doesn’t see the religion. (Basketball welcomes) all colors. That’s the beauty of basketball. Basketball brings us together.”