First Tunisian in NBA: an “American dream” becomes reality

Saleh Mejri is the 1st Tunisian and Arab National to join NBA (AP Photo)

The Dallas Mavericks have announced the signing of Tunisian center Salah Mejri on a three year contract. Responding to the news Mejri, a 2.16m center, said he was thrilled to be headed for the NBA.

“Very happy to be a part of a great team,” he said in a tweet, “can’t wait to be there.”

In an interview with Al Arabiya News, the basketball player Mejri said hard work was what led to this achievement.

While obviously and understandably happy, Mejri told Al-Arabiya news, he was aware of “the responsibilities of being a star.”

Tunisian sports commentator, Moez Machani, explained to Al-Arabiya that “ironically, Saleh grew up in a humble city, Jendouba, which is close to the same village, from where another man comes from. This man also went to the U.S in order to finish his studies.

After the revolution, he came back to Tunisia and led a terrorist cell which assassinated the late prominent leftist leader Chokri Belaid.”

Machani was referring to Kamal Gadhgadhi, who, according to official investigations, carried out the crime alone.

Belaid’s funeral prompted one of the largest outpourings of grief in Tunisian history, with an estimated one million people taking to the streets. The assassination caused the biggest political crisis Tunisia has experienced since the 2011 uprising that brought down President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Mejri has had a lot of big moments in his career. But said he could not forget his controversial start.

He admitted he came to basketball late, unlike others who usually begin their career during their youth. Instead Mejri was 23 when he started basketball and sport generally.

Thanks to Etoile Du Sahel, the Sousse’s main club, Saleh Mejri did not wait that long to express his gratitude to his “genuine” first team. He led Etoile to the Local championship title, and did not wait long to sign a professional contract with Antwerp, Belgium.

Winning the AfroBasket title four years ago afforded him the opportunity to play in Olympics London 2012.

Within one year, he moved to Spain with the Blusens and in two years at Real Madrid, Mejri was part of one of Europe’s best teams.

This past season, Mejri and Co won a Spanish Copa del Rey, Liga Endesa and Turkish Airlines Euroleague treble.

He said “I will never forget my family, my city, my team and my country, which are going through a hard time. I hope from my heart, that this American reality becomes an American dream for the youth of Tunisia, who showed a spectacular joy after the announcement of my move. The country need it, and I am thankful to God for giving me this opportunity to be an icon for them.”

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45
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