Iranian Hits NBA Bigtime, Sort Of

Introducing Iran's first NBA star

Being an Iranian in America is no doubt a challenge. On one hand, you've adopted a country as your own, and with it, some of its customs, its traditions, and its historical culture -- the culture of the American dream. You might love your new land. But on the other hand there's the image of home -- of people and cultures that are instantly familiar and that feel natural and right and good.

And thanks to your new country's issues with your old one, these two impulses are constantly warring. That can't be fun.

There is some semblance of a hero for Iranian-Americans, someone to bridge this divide. His name is Hamed Haddadi, and to us, he's just a garbage-time player on the last-place Memphis Grizzlies. But to Iranians, he's their first NBA star, a cult figure the Wall Street Journal calls inspirational.

There are some peculiar aspects of Haddadi's trip to the U.S. For one, he's only played 13 games for the Grizzlies, meaning superstardom is a long way away. He's spent most of his time in Bismarck, N.D., playing in the D-League.

Haddadi is also disallowed from receiving any American endorsements. The rule stems from the U.S. trade embargo with Iran, a product of the two nations' chilly international relationship. Which means that no matter how popular Haddadi gets, until his country and the U.S. relieve that embargo, he'll make no money from his cult status.

Michael Jordan once said "Republicans buy sneakers, too." Do Iranians? It'll be a while before Haddadi has a chance to find out.

Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, Follow him on Twitter.

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us