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Enes Kanter

Enes Kanter celebrated his 25th birthday Saturday. But instead of attending a party in his honor in Bucharest at Romania's International Festival of Language and Culture, Kanter was caught in a situation filled with international intrigue and political gamesmanship. In the midst of a 17-nation goodwill tour for his Enes Kanter Light Foundation, the Thunder forward/center, who hails from Turkey, had his passport canceled.

Despite the grim possibility of being sent back to Turkey, which has a ruling party that he vocally opposes, and arrested, Kanter managed to keep his sense of humor. He posted updates on social media with his phone, including a photo with local policemen at the Romanian airport where he was being detained. With help from the U.S. State Department, the NBA and other groups, Kanter was able to leave Romania for London, where he then connected to New York on Sunday.

"It was, of course, scary," Kanter said Monday as he began meeting with the press to explain his side of the story. "... If they send me back to Turkey, probably you guys wouldn't hear a word from me the second day. It would have definitely gotten really ugly."

The Kanter-Turkey saga has been going on for a number of years. Here is a timeline: 


Kanter took an unorthodox route to the NBA. After joining the youth squad of the Istanbul-based Fenerbahçe club in 2006, he was promoted to its pro team by 2008 as a 16-year-old and played nine games. Then to give himself the best shot at the NBA, Kanter relocated to the United States and enrolled at Stoneridge Preparatory School in Simi Valley, California, for a year. Although he originally committed to Washington, Kanter re-opened his recruitment and signed to play for John Calipari at Kentucky. The plan backfired as Kanter had reportedly received $33,000 in excess benefits at Fenerbahçe and the NCAA ruled him ineligible. He practiced with Kentucky for half the season and was still drafted No. 3 overall by the Jazz in 2011.

Kanter played in Utah from 2011-2015 before getting traded to Oklahoma City. Kanter has used his profile to voice support for Turkey's Hizmet Movement, led by Fethullah Gülen, who has lived in the United States since 1999. Although the movement considers itself as practicing a moderate version of Islam, Turkey designates Hizmet as a terrorist organization and blames it for the failed coup of the Turkish government in 2016. Kanter is an outspoken opponent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and last summer, his Twitter account was actually withheld in Turkey. Kanter's family in Turkey publicly disowned him, and Kanter declared greater love to Gülen than his own family. Kanter has unofficially changed his last name to Gülen.

Although Kanter began playing internationally for Turkey in 2008, he was left off the EuroBasket 2015 roster. Kanter considered the omission due to his political views, while coach Ergin Ataman said it had to do with Kanter failing to apologize to teammates. In short, Enes Kanter is an NBA player who has broken current ties with his family in Turkey, because he is vocal in supporting the movement he believes is best for his home country.

April 26-May 19

On April 25, the Thunder were eliminated from the NBA playoffs in five games by the Rockets. Just over a week later, his 17-country journey for his foundation began. His first video of the trip came in his first stop, Tokyo, where he explained he planned to inspire kids about education and sports, especially basketball.

Kanter made a stop in the "good" Korea, South Korea.

He went to the Philippines, where he appeared on CNN Philippines, the same channel that has featured ThePostGame to talk basketball.

He also met Manny Pacquiao there.

Kanter linked up with the Jr. NBA.

He went to Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand.

He hosted a "meet and greet" with kids in Indonesia.

And in the middle of all this, Kanter retweeted a John McCain post about how Turkish security officials assaulted protesters against Erdogan outside the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington. Nine people were injured.

May 20:

Kanter's tour shifted from Asia to Europe. He went to Romania, via Frankfurtfor his birthday celebration. Instead, upon arrival at Henri Coanda Airport in Bucharest, Kanter was detained by police because Turkey had cancelled his passport.

"The reason behind it is of course my politic views," Kanter said on a Twitter video. He called the president of Turkey "the Hitler of our century" and asked his followers to pray for him.

Kanter, wearing a "THIS IS WHY WE PLAY" NBA T-shirt, remained in good spirits, even posing with the police.

However, Mahir Zeynalov, chief editor of The Globe Post, reported that Kanter faced possible deportation to Turkey, which would likely result in arrest.

Late Saturday, Kanter revealed that he would be leaving Europe and heading to New York City.

May 21

Reportedly flying through London, Kanter arrived in the United States.


May 22

On Monday, Kanter appeared on CBS This Morning to discuss his situation. Kanter thanked U.S. Homeland Security, the U.S. State Department, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the NBA and the NBPA for helping him. Kanter revealed that at one point on his trip, Indonesia's Secret Service and army were looking for him because the Turkish government claimed Kanter was "a dangerous man." Kanter then went back to Singapore before heading to Europe.

During a conference call with the media Monday in New York, Kanter said the U.S. is "my home now" and he wants to make that permananet.

"Right now, I am country-less," Kanter says. "I am open to adoption definitely. I am going to try to become an American citizen. I have a green card. We will see if they can speed up the process a little bit. It would definitely be nice. Right now my next move is becoming an American citizen."

President Erdogan met with U.S. President Donald Trump last week at the White House, which "shocked" Kanter. According to the USA Today, Erdogan has declared a new state of emergency in Turkey, arresting 120 journalists, closing 150 news outlets and jailing 140,000 people.

"He's a terrible man," Kanter says. "I hope the world does something about it. …I hope the whole world is watching. Once these people get to jail, it's not over for them. …People are getting kidnapped, murdered, tortured, and raped. I love my country, but I'm just trying to speak up for innocent people. …There are thousands of people out there with situations worse than mine."

According to Kanter, his family in Turkey could be in danger of imprisonment if they contact him. He has not talked to his parents in over a year.

"I hope the whole world is watching this and all the human rights (groups)," Kanter says. "I want people to do something about it because there are a lot of people waiting for help in jail in Turkey, getting kidnapped, murdered, tortured, raped."

He says his current travel plans have been derailed, which is "terrible," considering such activity is needed for his foundation work.

Kanter is under contract by the Thunder for $17.89 million in 2017-18 and has a player option for $18.62 million in 2018-19.

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