Hamed Haddadi isn't a D-Leaguer, he's a Memphis Grizzly. He did, however, play 18 games in the D-League this year with the Dakota Wizards, one less than games he played in the NBA, and for that, I'm adopting him as one of our own.
The 7'2" Haddadi hasn't shown his NBA potential yet, as he averaged just over six minutes a game with the Grizzlies this season. Heck, he wasn't even a D-League All-Star, finishing his season in Dakota with averages of 5.9 points, 6.7 boards and 1.7 blocks per game. He does, however, have the potential to be an all-star, both on and off the court.
Haddadi is the first ever player from Iran to play in the NBA. This means quite a bit to Iranian-American's, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal:
A student in Oregon, 12 year old Ramin Trabizi, brought a classmate to a recent Trailblazers game, only to learn that Haddadi had just been sent back to Bismarck. "I wanted to say to kids at my school, 'See? Persians can play this game, too," the seventh-grader explains. More solemnly, he adds: "They should know not everyone who comes from Iran is a terrorist."
That quote really hit me. Wow - a seventh grader looks to a 7'2" bench warmer of a cellar-dwelling NBA team for hope? Hadaddi (who I've had brief, broken English conversations with while in my bit-too-small-for-7-footer's Buick LaCrosse) really has a chance to make a difference for his fellow countrymen - and, perhaps, the image American's have of his country.
Reflecting on last night's forced retirement of Dikembe Mutombo (sad), I wonder if Hadaddi could have such an enormous impact on his country, similar to what Mutombo's been able to do for his native Congo. The Republic of Congo had different problems, yes, but both men are the most prominent sports figure from their country in the sports world, and, fair or not, that means quite a bit.
Haddadi, although barred by a trade embargo with Iran from seeking commercial endorsements, is able to give a voice to Iranians in America, and I assume, soon enough, will give back to his fellow Iranian's still in Iran as well. Although he's in Memphis, decidedly not the mecca of media, the celebrity of being an NBA player will allow him to get his message out to many people.
He has NBA size, NBA potential, but is from Iran, a country that doesn't have the best image in the United States of America. If he does indeed choose to further the message that he is the position to purvey, it could do a lot for himself, Iran, while furthering the global education of America, wihch is decidedly lacking for the majority of us.
If nothing else, I hope he reaches closer to his potential next season, as it's going to be great when I'm unable to hear Jeff Van Gundy because of "Who's Your Haddadi" chants going on throughout the arena. #HaddadiIsHipHop? Let's get it going.