In the Knicks’ Kanter, Turks find an unlikely figurehead for resistance
At a moment of rising consciousness in sport, no North American-based athlete is feeling the boot of the state quite as directly as New York Knicks forward Enes Kanter. He may now be the world's highest-paid stateless person and political dissenter. It's already an unusual situation, made even more so by the fact that Kanter seems to be enjoying it.
Kanter, 25, was born in Switzerland, raised in Turkey and has spent most of his adult life in the United States.
His path to the NBA had several turns – a seldom-used pro in Turkey at 16, on to high school in the United States, denied permission to play at a U.S. college because of his professional past and, after a period of enforced unemployment, taken third over all in the 2011 draft.
He's since made himself into a useful basketball player – a regular starter, but not a star.
Men like that, especially ones of Kanter's size, versatility and genial disposition, can play in relative anonymity for twelve or fifteen years. There's little pressure to perform, no public scrutiny and you make a boatload of money.
Third- or fourth-best player on a middling NBA team – it may be the best job in pro sports.
But beginning in earnest this past summer, Kanter decided on a much harder path.
Long before an attempted coup back home in July, 2016, Kanter had been catching notice on social media for regularly raking Turkey's authoritarian government.
The grudge had its root in Kanter's stop-start basketball career. He blamed his former Turkish team, Fenerbahçe, for conspiring to ruin his chances at playing in the NCAA. Despite being the country's best player, he'd since been pushed off the national team.
But rather than do what most people probably would have done – retreat into an easy life in the United States – Kanter started to really get angry.