- He has been working with the NBA for the past five years, and has been named to the officiating staff for the 2020-21 season.
Indian American Suyash Mehta is set to create history as he becomes the fist Indian American to officiate as a referee in the National Basketball Association (NBA) league. Mehta, who has been working with the NBA for the past five years, has been named in the officiating staff for the 2020-21 season.
Mehta has refereed in 13 games, but had worked under the tag of non-staff official. He has previously officiated at the NBA Summer League in 2015 and has also worked closely with the NBA-G league. Last season, he was included in the league’s “non-staff officials” to be listed under the NBA officiating staff section.
After the 2019-20 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league will start its new season this December, following a short offseason of about 70 days, the league announced. The pre-season games start from Dec. 11 where all teams will play a minimum of two and maximum of four games, with at least one at home and one away. The season will take-off from Dec. 22. with two games – Golden State Warriors vs Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers vs LA Clippers.
Although basketball seems to be a popular sport among Indian Americans, there are very few who have made it to the top echelons. The most well known Indian American face in the NBA circuit is Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé and Sonia Raman, assistant coach of the Memphis Grizzlies.
This September, Raman, who spent the past 12 seasons as head coach of the women’s basketball team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, became the first Indian American woman to be appointed assistant coach of a NBA team. She joined the team on Nov. 1.
On the court, a few players of Indian origin are making a mark, and have been rostered by an NBA team or it’s G-League affiliate. This July, Princepal Singh, a 6′ 10″ forward from Punjab, was signed to play in the NBA G League. The NBA G League gives top young prospects a chance to begin their professional careers while receiving mentorship and life-skills training. Singh, is the first NBA Academy graduate to sign with the NBA G League and first NBA Academy India graduate to sign a professional contract. Singh also represented India in international competitions as part of the Indian men’s senior national team.
One of the most well known players of Indian origin is Sim Bhullar, who was part of the Sacramento Kings in 2015. The following season he played for the Toronto Raptors G-League affiliate, the Raptors 905. He currently plays for Guangxi Weizhuang in the National Basketball League (NBL).
Like Bhullar, Satnam Singh also made history in the NBA, becoming the first Indian player to be selected in the NBA Draft in 2015 for the Dallas Mavericks. Although he was waived by the Mavericks following the 2015 Summer League, he was picked up by their G-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. He currently plays for the St. John’s Edge in the NBL of Canada.
Amjyot Singh , who went undrafted in 2014, played two seasons overseas before joining the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate, for the 2017-18 season. He played in 30 games last season, averaging 2.7 points per game. The Blue waived Singh at the end of the season, but reassigned him five days later. He is on the Blue’s roster for the upcoming G-League season. While Palpreet Singh has yet to play in an NBA or G-League game, he was drafted to the Long Island Nets in the fourth round of the 2016 NBA Development League Draft.
Among the women, 23-year-old Kavita Akula successfully became the first Indian baller to graduate from an NCAA Division 1 (D1) college earlier this year. The Bhilai native, who last represented India at the 2017 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup, had made history in 2017, when she transferred to the Grand Canyon University (GCU), Phoenix after completing her two years at the Garden City Community College, Kansas.
Following Akula’s footsteps, three other Indian girls — Sanjana Ramesh, Khushi Dongre and Asmat Kaur — moved from India to colleges and schools across the U.S., in pursuit of a dream to reach the WNBA. Ramesh, 17, of Bangalore, is a freshman at Northern Arizona University; Dongre, 18 of Ahmedabad has signed to play for the ASA College-Miami in the NJCAA (junior NCAA) Division 1; and Kaur, 16, of Indore, plays for the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey.