The Toronto Raptors’ official Superfan, Nav Bhatia, is more than his bespoke jersey — he’s also a Basketball Hall of Fame honouree, a businessman, and a philanthropist. Mediaplanet chatted with him about his love for his team and city, what he’s been up to, and how to keep sports fans engaged in unprecedented times.
How did you become the Raptors’ Superfan?
I purchased my first set of season tickets when the Raptors first arrived in 1995 and I’ve never missed a home game since then. No matter the score, I would always be cheering and supporting the team. In 1999, the team’s General Manager, Isiah Thomas, called me to courtside and presented me with the jersey — “Superfan.” On that day the Superfan was born!
What does the Toronto Raptors organization mean to you?
The Raptors organization is like a family to me. When I’m going through good or bad days, they’re always there to pick me up! It’s incredible to know that, from the owners right down to the ushers in the building, we all care for each other like any family cares for their own.
What kinds of Raptors-related rewards would you be most excited about?
I believe any opportunity fans get to interact with the players is always a great incentive. The Raptors have been very good at creating events and opening these opportunities up but with today’s world and social distancing being so important, these types of opportunities are going to have so much more value than in previous years.
How are you supporting the Raptors in these unprecedented times?
I continue engaging with fans online — it’s important we all stay connected. During the shortened season I had the chance to host the Raptor’s drive-in games for MLSE. Nothing beats seeing people face-to-face. It was very tough not being able to hug fans and take photos, something I love doing prior to every game.
How are you making the most of your nights in?
It’s been tough, believe me! My world revolves around the Raptors’ schedule! I’ve been re-watching old games — especially the championship playoffs. I must have seen those 20 times by now! I’ve also taken this time to focus on the Superfan Nav Bhatia Foundation, where we’ve been giving meals to shelters and our frontline workers. It’s kept me very busy.
Have you heard about the NBA’s first loyalty partner?
The SCENE partnership is extremely exciting for us sports fans. Basketball has a way of uniting people of all backgrounds and lifestyles. Scene has over 10 million members, and if we can attract these members to our Raptor’s community it will only bring even more people together, which is a beautiful thing. I have no doubt this will happen. The Raptors are very aware of their fan base’s loyalty and they’ve done a remarkable job keeping us all connected.
Are you looking forward to next year’s basketball season?
I never took my jersey off! I’m excited for the return no matter the circumstances. I hope fans will be in the building but the safety of everyone is, of course, priority right now.