Hamed Haddadi–Blazing a Trail for Iranians in the NBA

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

Grizzlies-Hamed-Haddadi Hamed Haddadi is an Iranian professional basketball player with the Memphis Grizzlies of the National Basketball Association, and he is the first Iranian to play in the NBA. At 7 feet 2 inches and 280 lbs, he certainly attracts attention. And he first made a big splash by leading the Iranian junior team to the silver medal at the 2002 Asian U18 Championship. They subsequently took home the gold medal at the 2004 Asian U20 Championships. He also went on to win gold medals at the 2004 and 2005 West Asian Championships with the main Iranian national basketball team. Haddadi really took off from there, taking his country to bronze medal at the 2006 Asian Games and then the gold medal at both the 2007 FIBA Asian Championships and the 2009 FIBA Asian Championships. He was named the Most Valuable Player of both of those Asian Championships. The icing on the cake of his amateur career came in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where he dominated, leading the tournament in blocked shots per game and rebounds per game.

Haddadi’s professional career began with Paykan and Saba Battery in the Iranian Basketball Super League, and in 2008 he led his team to the Asian Club Championship. He finally moved to the big stage, the NBA, on August 28, 2008, when signed with the NBA’s Grizzlies as a free-agent. While the Grizzlies have assigned him to the Dakota Wizards for periods of time for seasoning, Haddadi has shown glimpses of his potential with the big club.

Haddadi has maintained a sense of community. In September of 2009 he hosted a weekend basketball camp for kids in Los Angeles that also included Los Angeles Laker Ron Artest. The camp attracted over 120 kids and was the first sports camp ever held in this country by an Iranian athlete. . He also started the Hamed Haddadi Javanan Foundation, a charity organization formed with the intention of awarding college scholarships to student athletes across the nation. And in a game against the Sacramento Kings this past season he symbolically shook hands with Omri Casspi, the first Israeli basketball player in the NBA.

Haddadi and the Iranian national team recently competed in the 2010 Stankovic Continental Champions’ Cup in China. The tournament took place in Liuzhou, China from July 28 to August 1 with teams from China, Iran, Australia and Slovenia. It was a disappointing finish for the Iranians however, as they finished 0-3 and in last place.  The tournament was a preparatory tournament for the 2010 FIBA World Championships which will be hosted by Turkey from August 28 to September 12.


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