It’s always nice to win a championship. It’s great that people are turned on to basketball. It’s fun to have another rallying point because no Canadian teams were anywhere at the end of the hockey season. But it is also important to reflect on how to act in victory, especially if we truly believe that sports — particularly for young people — imbues character. And in that spirit, the words of Raptor superfan Nav Bathia are one of the most important — and perhaps lasting — effects of the Toronto Raptors winning the NBA Championship.
This is especially so in light of Monday’s shootings at the Toronto Raptors Rally that saw four people wounded and two arrested. Because what Nav has been speaking about — and what we can learn more than anything — is that if a victory can bring us together for temporary celebration, it should also bring us together in permanent solidarity as a nation and as a people.
If you don’t recognize the name of Nav Bathia, you haven’t been paying attention. You don’t even have to be a sports fan. Nav has earned the nickname “Superfan” in North America media. Bhatia, hasn’t missed a Raptors home game since 1995 — always sitting in seat A12 — and was a few rows from the floor at Oracle Arena in Oakland when the Raptors won. He was among a large group of devoted Canadians watching the game in person. But Bhatia has become a celebrity himself earning a New York Times profile and a Tim Hortons commercial.
“It was so beautiful to see over 2,000 Canadian fans who flew in here for the special game from coast to coast showing how much Canada loves basketball,” he told CTV’s Your Morning. He recalled the moment in the same Oakland arena when Vince Carter thrilled everyone with a “windmill” slam dunk at the 2000 NBA All-Star Game. But it wasn’t for his institutional memory of the Raptors and the sport that Nav has gained such recent acclaim. It was for a 57-second video that went viral which he released during the Raptors-Warriors series.
In it he speaks of how Canadians react to him in his turban sitting in his usual seat A12. He says, “When people see me, some see just a man, some see a Sikh, some see a Canadian and some just see a turban. But most just accept me as another fan. We are all together. And this is what Canada is to me. An acceptance of diversity and a warmth for all.” Now can you imagine if this is how we managed to behave all the time, all year round. Now that would be an especially worthy championship to win! And we don’t have to beat anyone to win it. We have to change ourselves within.
But Nav’s words of civility and sportsmanship were not just reserved for the video. He publicly berated Raptors fans through the series when they cheered a serious injury suffered by Kevin Durant and when some of them were recorded on camera hitting a Warriors fan and yet again when some hurled abuse at Steph Curry’s parents. “No excuses!” Nav railed at these fans for behaviour he termed “un-Canadian.”
Nav said, “What ring is worth mocking someone who may have a career threatening injury? What ring is worth blindsiding a Warriors fan as he crosses the street? What ring is worth insulting a player’s family and someone who played here nonetheless!!! Not the ring I want. Believe me I want this ring more than anyone but I want it knowing we competed at the highest level for it. I want it knowing we respected our competition and their fans. That’s how I hope to get that ring. And even more so than the ring I want Kevin Durant to be healthy. I hope you will join me in wishing our brother the best.”