Raptors "Superfan" Honored by Basketball Hall of Fame

© Nav Bhatia / Instagram

Raptors' Superfan, Nav Bhatia, was honored by the Basketball Hall of Fame in the United States before celebrations surrounding the NBA All-Star Game.

Mr. Bhatia, a Toronto area businessman and philanthropist who immigrated to Canada from India in 1984, attended almost all home games as well as many away games during of the team's 25 years of existence.

Friday, he became one of the first winners of a new gallery "Superfan", with the late actress and director Penny Marshall.

You are a superfan, Hall of Fame President Jerry Colangelo told Mr. Bhatia on Friday.

Nav Bhatia said that the honor went beyond his wildest dreams.

I'm still in shock and that's why I accept this on behalf of not only Toronto fans, Raptors fans, but all fans, basketball fans and NBA fans around the world. I want to thank youhe replied.

“Superfan” Nav Bhatia is watching the Raptors warm up before the last game of the season in Minnesota.© Nav Bhatia / Instagram
“Superfan” Nav Bhatia is watching the Raptors warm up before the last game of the season in Minnesota.

Born in Delhi, Nav Bhatia attended his first Raptors game in November 1995, at the start of the team's first season in the league. At the time, he was general manager at auto dealerships, describing himself annoying guy.

He became addicted instantly. It's the best game on this earth. Two hours and a half. You are in a different area. You don't even remember your wife or anyone else, [or] all the stress, he told CBC News this year.

It's the most diverse crowd in the NBA, added Nav Bhatia about supporters of the Raptors.

Last year, Mr. Bhatia shared his early years in Canada with CBC.

A mechanical engineer by training, he said that he had trouble finding work in his field, opting for odd jobs until he found work as a car salesman.

People have already called me Paki, towel rack … but I didn't care, he said.

Over the years, he has become the owner of several concessions. During this time, his passion for games grew and Nav Bhatia established himself as a familiar face among Toronto basketball fans.

In 1998, his status as "Superfan" was ratified when former Raptors general manager Isiah Thomas called him into the field to give him the official title.

Since then, Mr. Bhatia has been an active philanthropist, helping young fans attend games to share his love of basketball and spread a message of inclusiveness.

The Raptors thanked him, especially when he became the first supporter in NBA history to receive a championship ring.