November 23, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Omer Asik (3) and New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) battle for a rebound during the fourth quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
1989, Munich, West Germany: An overwhelming vote empowers FIBA (Federal Basketball Association) to allow open competition and therefore any player (including NBA players) to compete in the FIBA. Since then, the growth of international basketball has skyrocketed and FIBA now boasts a membership of 213 nations.
Unfortunately, the typical American has a difficult time seeing beyond himself and valuing any sort of competitive basketball outside of the good old USA. However, the USA and therefore the NBA is only one of the 213 nations playing competitive professional basketball. As the NBA becomes increasingly international, it is hopefully obvious that basketball transcends nationality, culture, and language. It is truly a wonderful game.
Omer Asik grew 8 inches in one summer at the age of 17 and decided to play basketball in his home country of Turkey. After playing professionally in Turkey for 5 years, he was given the opportunity to play for the NBA with the Chicago Bulls. While he could have taken more money to stay in Turkey, he latched on to that chance with the Bulls because he valued the quality of the NBA and relished the chance to play with the best and become one of the best.
He brings that same attitude and work ethic to the Houston Rockets. It is not easy to uproot and start a new life in a foreign country, especially with a tremendous language barrier. Omer can be quoted with “My English Bad”. In light of my admiration and excitement for Omer as he commits to build a competitor here in Houston, I thought it would be appropriate for us Houstonians to make the effort to get to know him a bit and make him feel at home.
About one month after the Rockets lost to the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA Finals, Omer Asik was born on the Fourth of July. He was born and raised in Bursa, Turkey. Please take the time to Google Bursa, and be sure to click on ‘images’. It is a beautiful place roughly between Greece and the Black Sea. It is full of history (Ottoman Empire) and was the western-most extension of the ‘Silk Road’. Contrary to life in Houston, there are beautiful mountains in Bursa, much less humidity, and hundreds of years of rich culture. The city’s nickname is ‘Green Bursa’. I am sure that it can be challenging at times for someone like Omer to adjust to life here, especially when so far removed from his family and friends as well.
Omer’s name is pronounced O-MAIR AH-SHEEK. No one in his family is taller than 6′ 2″ (his dad). He enjoys playing Playstation, watching movies (with subtitles), and hanging out with teammates. He is one of only 8 Turkish players in the NBA. He is a star in his home town. He won a silver medal with Turkey in 2010, second only to the USA. If you read his Draft Express profile, it is obvious that interest in his potential is well documented. He is a defensive beast and is committed to developing a consistent offensive game. I cannot imagine a better person to work under than Kevin McHale to become an offensive force and balance his defensive prowess. In a league where someone like Dwight Howard would rather spend his millions on shiny new dumb-bells to sculpt his biceps instead of actually learning how to properly shoot a free throw, I could not be happier with having Omer Asik.
My first personal experience with Turkish culture was when an ex-girlfriend’s Czech mother introduced me to Turkish coffee. I now make my own Turkish coffee every morning, and I drink it black, no sugar. I look forward to the day when I can sit down and have a cup with Omer. Something gives me the feeling that he drinks his coffee the same way.