By Jack Golub
Enes Kanter couldn’t go to London because he feared for his life. Dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, via his evil henchman and former NBA player Hedo Turkoglu, has consistently threatened, mocked and insulted Kanter for Kanter’s opposition to ruthless totalitarian xenophobia and political suppression. Ironically, Hedo was a heady player known for his ability to handle and facilitate. Turkoglu claimed Kanter lied about fearing for his life. He called Kanter a fraud for hiding the fact that he couldn’t get a visa to enter the UK.
Through — where else — his favorite medium of communication, Twitter, Kanter revealed that Turkoglu is a gutless political crony. Survival, not visa issues, forced Kanter to stay home. What a shame that was, for those fans in London and everyone else around the world who would have watched the game, or the Instagram highlights, or the reddit comment threads. Corrupt politics threatened a life and slightly worsened many others, all because of the desire to retain power.
Kanter is an NBA enigma. What he lacks in on-court utility, he makes up for with chemistry-building intangibles and entertainment. Kanter, a goofball who infamously got sick and missed a game (maybe) because he ate seven burgers right beforehand, is an NBA Twitter Hall of Famer. He roams the highest tier of social media status. While he might not be able to guard him on the court, Kanter jostles with Joel Embiid in a battle of low-post brutes for NBA Twitter supremacy. He is one of the most charismatic players in the NBA, a fan favorite, and a loving teammate. On a tactical level his game is outdated and inefficient; he’s a post-up monster that’s too slow and ground-bound to protect the rim on defense and not a good enough perimeter shooter to space the floor on offense.
Enes Kanter is an American immigrant. He came to the United States because it was here that he could make the most of his talents and hard work. After a short, unsuccessful stint with the Utah Jazz, he entrenched himself in Oklahoma City as a beloved and devoted community member. The Thunder fans still love him and celebrate him when he returns. Despite his lack of playing time this year, Knicks fans (real fans) still appreciate him. Even though he didn’t get the big contract he wanted last summer and almost certainly won’t get it this summer, he gets paid tens of millions of dollars to play a game he enjoys, to the benefit of millions of worldwide fans. He is an inspiring example of the magic created by uniting character, freedom of speech and comical individuality. Our world is better because Enes is in it.
Say what you will about Trump; he’s no dictator. He doesn’t have the ability to unilaterally oppress his constituents. However, he does have a lot of power and he’s wielding it for political gain even as it causes devastation. His refusal to sign any funding bill without funds for the wall he promised México would pay for leverages his (relative to Erdoğan) limited power into unilateral decision-making authority. Trump constantly threatens freedom of speech. He threatens the rights of immigrants. In doing so, he threatens the promise of America that allows for someone like Enes to flourish. The fact that Enes can play in the NBA tells us how far America has come. The fact that he couldn’t play in London warns us of where we are going.
Contact Jack Golub at golubj ‘at’ stanford.edu