LONDON (AFP) – Troy Justice played a leading role in Satnam Singh becoming the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA, telling AFP it is such “life changing” events that that make his job so rewarding.
Justice, the NBA’s Associate Vice President, International Basketball Operations, came across Singh, who joined the Dallas Mavericks in 2015 – although he is currently in the Canadian League with St John’s Edge – when he was based in India for the organisation.
Justice, who features in the Netflix documentary One in a Billion which charts Singh’s remarkable journey from a remote Punjab village to the Mavericks, said it is the human aspect that makes him enjoy his job.
“I am a heart guy,” he told AFP ahead of the NBA game in London last Thursday between the Washington Wizards and the New York Knicks.
“To see lives change through sport are the most powerful moments.
“They are what I live for. It is not about basketball. It is these kids and their journeys.
“To teach them how to grow as individuals is the biggest thing.”
Justice, a former player, said it is moving to be able to use basketball to give something to youngsters who have had nothing.
One such case that especially moved the American is a 16-year-old Haitian named Chedlet.
“As you know Haiti is a rough place, but we ran a junior NBA programme there in four locations to select top players and bring them to an elite programme,” he said.
“Up in a mountainous region of northern Haiti where we had previously done nothing, we discovered a seven foot boy who had no coach, no court, nothing, but he had natural raw athletic talent.”
Justice said he will never forget Chedlet’s reaction, having been selected to come to New York for more training, when he took him to an NBA game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Golden State Warriors.
“He began to cry when we entered the arena,” said Justice.
“Then when we are sitting in the front row and he saw Steph Curry (NBA icon and three time champion with Golden State), he began to shake.
“I mean for him it was a special moment, being from where he was from.
“He has gone in two months from no one knowing who he is to sitting in the Barclays Center.
“He has been transformed by the game.”