"In 1999, I think the internet also boomed in our country. So, whenever I used to go to a Cyber Cafe, the first thing I used to do was open NBA.com, and later on, Lakers.com and follow them."
That is Bhushan Suryavanshi, the NBA's Most Valuable Fan in India, a title given to him when he made an appearance on the 'NBA Weekly' a weekly wrap-up show on the Sony Pictures Network - Sports.
He's been a die-hard fan of the league far before any games were broadcasted on television in India.
So, Bhushan truly understands the value of the NBA's growth in India whether that's the NBA Academy, the NBA Basketball Schools program and most importantly, for a fan, the games that are broadcasted on the Sony Pictures Network - Sports.
And he doesn't the growth of the NBA in India lightly. To showcase his fandom, he has let his actions do the talking.
A regular caller, over the past couple of years, on India's only pregame and postgame show - Around the Hoop, Bhushan has been named 'Caller of the Day' multiple times.
A couple of years back, his voice was even cut as part of the show's promo:
#DurantInIndia #AroundTheHoop @NBAIndia @NBA My name and voice featuring in the Official promo....I love this Game - NBA #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/UAGyPRUBcB- Bhushan Suryavanshi (@bhushyrhodes) July 20, 2017
His fandom earned him a visit to the sets of almost every NBA show that gets broadcasted on the Sony Pictures Network - Sports: NBA Weekly, Saturday Morning Live (below right), and Around the Hoop (below left).
"I used to be a regular caller, being an NBA fan. I'm really crazy about the NBA," Bhushan said.
"So, when I got the call from the production team, I was about to have my lunch. They invited me for the show and once I heard that, I was like jumping with joy. Immediately, after the call, I thought whether this was real or somebody was pranking."
" [Around the Hoop] has made the fans more interactive. There was something to get in touch with the NBA. Prior to that, there was nothing. We only used to watch it [broadcasted NBA games]. This was the only time when there was an opportunity for all your fans to get more attracted to the game.
So, I think, this and the other shows [Saturday Morning Live and NBA Weekly], I'm thankful for these broadcasts."
Bhushan has been a fan of the game far before Shaquille O'Neal wore a Reebok sponsored #34 for the Lakers, which he details to be his first-ever jersey.
"I used to go in every shop in Bandra for the jersey but I didn't get it anywhere. Once, when I was in the 12th standard, one of my friends told me, and that time Reebok used to sponsor the NBA jersey, he said there is a Reebok shop in Bandra that has got it.
When I went there, I saw it and it was for Rs. 1500. That time, 1500 was a lot. So, I came home and told my mom. Then my mom said okay, my sports day was a couple of days after that, if 'you get a medal for yourself then I'll get a jersey for you.' That sports day, I got some medals and in the evening, she took me to the shop and I got the Shaquille O'Neal #34 jersey, my first jersey."
Is Bhushan to the NBA in India what Nav Bhatia is to the Toronto Raptors?
That could be way too early to say given the Superfan's longevity as a loyal fan but Bhushan's dedication to the game as a fan during the short span that the league has grown in India certainly shows similarities.
For the full episode of NBA Weekly that features Bhushan Suryavanshi, click here.