Iran-born center talks basketball in socks, ‘Argo’

Hamed Haddadi is the only Iranian to play in the NBA and joined the Phoenix Suns in a trade deadline deal with the Toronto Raptors, who he joined but didn’t play for as part of the Rudy Gay trade. The(Phoenix) Arizona Republic‘s Paul Coro sat down with the 7-2 center, who has played well in 16.0 minutes a game for the Suns.

Q. How were you introduced to basketball growing up in Iran?

A. I was 14 or 15. I was playing soccer. Before that, I was playing handball. Because I was tall, I just stayed home. I didn’t have shoes. I couldn’t find big-sized shoes. My neighbor told me, “I play basketball. You want to come play?” I said, “Sure, why not?” Next day, I go to my town college with no shoes and a soccer jersey.

Q. Did you play in socks or bare feet?

A. In socks. Then I took my socks off. I tried my outside shoes. That was tough for me. After six months, I find the shoes. My uncle sent me shoes from Germany. Then I went to a camp in Tehran with a new coach, and he taught me all of basketball.

Q. Was the quality of play good enough to make you better?

A. We had a good team. They helped me a lot to be able to come here. They passed me the ball. They made me get better and pushed me to work hard and practice hard. I loved playing with them.

Q. Why did you continue playing in Iran instead of going to Europe to try to get to the NBA?

A. I got an offer from Serbia and I said, “No, don’t sign a contract. Just stay home and practice here and get ready for the Olympic games to show yourself.” After the Olympics, if I didn’t make it, I would’ve gone to Europe.

Q. Have you ever been mistreated by fans in the NBA because you are Iranian?

A. No. That’s politics. That is different than the sport. I don’t follow politics. I don’t like politics. It’s my job. My job is basketball and practice every day. I don’t follow politics. I just do my job and just play my game.

Q. Do you still go home?

A. Yes, every summer. Actually, my city is like Phoenix. The weather is the same. It’s crazy hot, like 120, 125.

Q. When you picked No. 98, Iran’s dialing code, for a uniform number, why was that important to you?

A. My whole career (I) was No. 15 in (the) NBA, with the national team and my club team. When I got traded here, I checked the website and I saw nobody had 15. When I came here, I said that I wanted and they said Marcus (Morris) took it. I said, “No, I just checked yesterday.” Marcus came the day before and took the jersey, so I thought, “Why not 98?” The Persians love it.

Q. Have you grown tired of hearing “Who’s your Haddadi?” over five NBA seasons?

A. I love it. It’s a good thing that the fans call your name. My manager had to tell me what it meant in the beginning. I like it.

Q. What did you think of Argo?

A. I saw it in my hotel room. I was not there at that time. It’s a movie. They’re making people watch it. Bad or good. They don’t want it to be a boring movie. To make people watch it, it’s just a little fake.

By USA Today


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