If the NBA finals make it to game seven, Toronto will be hosting the game, where the Raptors will face off against the two-time champion Golden State Warriors at Scotiabank Arena. While watching, you might see an Indian-Canadian man sitting in Courtside Seat A12. His name is Nav Bhatia, and that seat represents much more to him than just a basketball game, and it’s his story that restaurant chain Tim Hortons is helping to tell.
A Sikh Indian from Delhi, Bhatia came to Canada in 1984 to escape escalating violence in his home country. He sought work for months with no luck until finally, a Hyundai dealership offered him a job as a car salesman. Persevering in the face of bigotry from customers and coworkers alike, he exceled, selling a record 127 cars in his first three months, according to the NBA. This amazing talent saw him climb up the career ladder until he owned some of the most prosperous dealerships in Canada.
Today, Bhatia is a multimillionaire. And some of that money has been poured into one of his most beloved passions: basketball. Since he attended his first game in 1995, Bhatia has gone to every Raptors home game without exception. In 1998, his dedication was rewarded with a #1 Superfan jersey, given to him by the Raptors’ then general manager. The next year, something galvanized Bhatia to change the way he saw basketball.
After entering a phone store, “There was this white guy talking to somebody on the phone and he said, ‘Honey, I got to go. My cab is here.’ On that day, I decided that whatever it takes, however much money, however much time it takes, I'm going to change the perception of the mainstream about the Sikhs and the South Asians,” Bhatia told Public Radio International in a recent interview.
He purchased 3,000 Raptors tickets and gave them to just as many South Asian children. Since then, he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to bring kids from different religions, cultures and ethnicities together under a common love for basketball.
It is no surprise that the Superfan partnered up with Tim Hortons, a sponsor of the Toronto Raptors for over 20 years, to highlight the importance of diversity and inclusion not just in basketball, but in Canada, too.
“Watch any Toronto Raptors home game and you will spot him near the net, always there on time, till the game has ended, since the Raptor’s inception in 1995. Bhatia embodies Tim Hortons' brand values of inclusion and diversity, so no one better than him to share an inspiring message about this historic moment for Toronto Raptors and Canada” said Paloma Azulay, global head of creative excellence at Tim Hortons.
“Tim Hortons has been a part of my daily routine since I moved to Canada 35 years ago, so when they approached me asking to share my story as a proud Canadian, the answer was absolutely yes. That cup of coffee with two cream and one sweetener has been with me through everything, and I am proud to hold it everyday,” said Bhatia.
In a video filmed by Gut for Tim Hortons, Bhatia takes the viewer through his journey and explains why Seat A12 is so important to him. “The whole world is looking at the seat,” he says. “Some see Indian. Some see Canadian. Some see both. Some see a turban. I hope they see diversity and loyalty. I hope they see why Canada is so special.”
With so much political tension around immigration, an inspiring story like Nav Bhatia’s might be just what we need. So, when you’re watching the NBA Finals on your television or live in Toronto this Thursday, make sure to look out for the man sitting in Courtside Seat A12. He will certainly be cheering with you.