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Friday, June 25, 2004

From Iran, with Love

SportsProf noted in an earlier post that two Iranian players, Hamid Hadadi and Jaber Rouzbahani, had applied for early entry into the NBA draft. SportsProf noted this and questioned whether either player could possibly gain entry into the league, given the various proscriptions the U.S. and Iranian governments have. It doesn't help (at least in the sense of the overall international hoops scene) when the former refers to the latter as part of the "Axis of Evil" and the latter refers to the former as "The Great Satan."

Those questions have apparently been answered, as Jaber Rouzbahani is living with an associate of powerful agent Aaron Goodwin (he's the agent for LeBron James, there's an article in this week's SI about him and he's #8 on SI's list of most powerful minorities in sports). Rouzbahani has a visa, is living in the SF Bay Area and is working on his game and his English. He wasn't drafted last night, so it will be interesting to see where he goes next to improve his game. Perhaps the more interesting story is how and why the Iranians decided to let him come to America in the first place.

Click here, here and here to read about Jaber Rouzbahani, who held Yao Ming to 15 points in a game between China and Iran in last year's Asian games. He's 18, he's 7'5", 300 pounds (as a result of a pituitary gland disorder that has afflicted the likes of former Washington Bullet Georghe Muresan and current Maverick (as in for one-day) Pavel Podkolizine), and, he has some serious skills. And he really wants to be the Iranian pioneer in the NBA.

A thaw in relations between "The Great Satan" and the capital of "The Axis of Evil?" Don't bet on it. Jaber Rouzbahani is just a kid, and it's not clear how good he'll become. But it would be nice if somehow the game that Dr. Naismith invented to keep his football players in shape in the wintertime has some role in making both countries look more human to one another.

At least for Jaber Rouzbahani's initial 15 minutes of fame.

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