The Story of Robby Sikka, Physician and Chief within the NBA



Each day appears to be like totally different for Robby Sikka, the vice chairman of basketball efficiency and know-how for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He in all probability interacts with someplace between 25 and 50 individuals, whether or not it’s through cellphone or video convention. His duties vary from deciding the meals on the workforce’s menu to understanding and strategizing how they need to deal with the COVID-19 disaster. He’ll prepare medical care, speak to gamers about their bodily and psychological well being, drop fixed updates on the pandemic within the group’s communications platform (which he helped construct), examine new sports activities science knowledge and join with enterprise CEOs, social justice activists, wellness consultants and extra.

“Actually, it’s something and the whole lot that the group wants,” Sikka says. “I’m dedicated as a result of I simply wish to win so badly. I need the group to achieve success and I need the individuals right here to achieve success. I’ve by no means been round a entrance workplace or a gaggle of coaches that care extra about each other. It’s a household.”

What that household particularly asks of Sikka has clearly modified since coronavirus shut down the NBA in mid-March, however his total position has remained the identical—draw from numerous sources and unite various views to provide you with one of the best options to issues. Actually, that position is as vital now because it’s ever been.

Sikka’s father moved to Minnesota from India in 1969. He fell in love with the native sports activities groups instantly, recognizing his fandom as one solution to assimilate to a brand new tradition. The Timberwolves have been based in 1989 and the Sikkas grew to become season ticket holders instantly. From the times of Tony Campbell, Sam Mitchell, Pooh Richardson and Tyrone Corbin, Robby was fully hooked. It was the centerpiece of his youth and introduced his complete household collectively.

He watched the league’s largest stars at any time when they got here to city and noticed JR Rider win the Dunk Contest when Minnesota hosted All-Star Weekend in 1994. He was at their first ever playoff win towards Seattle in 1998. He travelled backwards and forwards from Penn, the place he went to varsity, any weekend that each the Wolves and the Vikings have been enjoying. He went to Sport 7 of the 2004 Western Convention Finals a day after his commencement, getting residence with simply sufficient time to nap earlier than heading to the Goal Middle. His engagement get together was in a set on the area and his wedding ceremony was within the Marriott lodge simply throughout the road. A lot of his life, he proudly admits, has revolved round that constructing and that workforce.

Following the trail of his family members (26 physicians), Sikka labored towards a profession within the medical area. His plan, after a summer time job with an orthopedic heart serving professional sports activities franchises in Minnesota (TRIA), was to turn out to be a workforce physician. That imaginative and prescient was thwarted when Sikka was recognized with keratoconus, a progressive eye illness that prevented him from working. He transitioned to turning into an anesthesiologist and devoted himself to the brand new job. However his ardour for sports activities all the time tugged at him, and he saved pursuing methods to make it part of his career.

“I’ve all the time been of the opinion that if there’s one thing that you just’re finding out late at night time, you need to discover a solution to make that your job, as a result of then it’s not work,” he says. “I don’t thoughts working till two within the morning, studying and understanding ideas associated to sports activities and physiology.”

In 2013, Sikka got here throughout the Twitter account of Jeff Stotts, a licensed athletic coach. Stotts was finding out sports activities accidents and restoration occasions and compiling his knowledge for NBA groups. It was precisely the kind of analysis that saved Robby up till 2:00 am. Sikka reached out and the 2 quickly shaped a partnership, creating the Sports activities Drugs Analytics Analysis Group (SMART). The enterprise mixed medical information and analytics to advise NBA entrance places of work about participant well being/damage prevention, correct therapies, when athletes ought to return from the IR and extra.

Minnesota’s president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas was certainly one of many who observed the worth in such forward-thinking and vowed to include it additional into his group. He employed Sikka in June of 2019, only a month after taking on, and instantly the child who spent his childhood idolizing the Wolves was a key a part of the franchise.

Sikka shortly started working studying concerning the gamers and their routines (health, consuming habits and so forth.) to be able to develop individualized coaching/diet applications that utilized knowledge and catered to particular preferences. He employs applied sciences like KINEXON to trace participant motion on the ground, creating much more exact blueprints. His insights immediately helped the Timberwolves lower their damage charges.

“Some guys wish to have the identical meal on daily basis, so perhaps we acquired to switch the parts relying on what their exercise was. Perhaps we acquired to switch the hydration as a result of the meals are going to be the identical,” he explains. “There are all kinds of issues that you would be able to change since you’re making an attempt to get an athlete to peak mentally and bodily on the proper time. It’s not essentially about working tougher, it’s about working smarter. We must be environment friendly with what we do in each potential method.” 

As coronavirus unfold throughout the globe, Sikka had a sense—given his background—that it was going to be a a lot larger disaster than most anticipated. However even he couldn’t have predicted the severity of what’s ensued over the past a number of months.

“I don’t suppose anyone within the nation acknowledged how difficult this could be and the way this virus would choose at a number of the weakest elements of our tradition and level out the divisions in our society,” he says. “And now we’ve got an opportunity, as a result of nice moments are born out of nice alternatives, to heal and to return collectively. I’ve all the time tried to carry attention-grabbing, clever teams of individuals collectively to collaborate on initiatives.”

As a consequence of his distinctive talent set, Sikka has been on the core of Minnesota’s response to the pandemic, in addition to the NBA’s at massive. He’s been spearheading a collaborative investigation into the consequences of the illness on the league and is certainly one of ten members of the NBA’s sports activities science committee, which has been a significant useful resource throughout this time. The committee zeroed in on three questions in serving to the NBA conceive the restart in Orlando: 1) If we return to play, how can we do it safely? 2) As soon as we’re there, how can we preserve everyone within the space protected? 3) How can we come again in a method that advantages society as a complete and gives a mannequin for others? The NBA and NBPA introduced on Wednesday that of the 344 gamers on the Disney World campus, none had examined optimistic for the coronavirus since outcomes have been final launched on July 20.

All of the whereas, Sikka has been a significant factor in holding his tight-knit Timberwolves circle collectively—the one which has meant the whole lot to him ever since he was a bit boy. He’s consistently on the cellphone checking in with employees and making certain that everybody adheres to the required protocols and will get what they want (the Wolves have been delivering meals to their gamers and dropping off groceries at their homes since March). He understands the devastation brought on by coronavirus and worries that others don’t. He is aware of we should be there for one another, now greater than ever.

“For those who have misplaced somebody, the social parts of this illness are issues that individuals have a really powerful time comprehending. The isolation, the potential for dying alone, the sentiments of being overwhelmed—these are actual issues,” he says. “We don’t see sufficient of the faces that have been misplaced proper now. We’re forgetting about these faces and ignoring numerous that across the nation. That’s the factor that scares me now and it’s a part of the rationale I’m prepared to speak about it. We have now to do our greatest to guard one another, similar to we’ve finished inside the Timberwolves. We have now to guard our household.

“Bringing sensible individuals collectively to provide you with sensible options is what’s going to get us out of this,” he provides.

And that’s what Robby Sikka does finest.


Alex Squadron is an Affiliate Editor at SLAM. Comply with him on Twitter @asquad510.

Images through Getty, Sabrina Sikka and DJ Sikka.

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