By Lefteris Moutis/ email@example.com
On Sunday night at Fenerbahce/Ulker Sports Arena in Istanbul, Fenerbache, CSKA Moscow, Turkish basketball and whole Europe will honor the rebounding leader in Euroleague history, Mirsad Turkcan.
Eurohoops.net spoke with him before this great event and had the chance to hear his memories and his thoughts on his great career. His emotions will fly the moment that his jersey will be retired by Fenerbahce as it’s obvious by his words: “The club decided to retire my jersey and I want to show them my appreciation. It’s the first time that Fenerbache has decided to do this and it’s the biggest honor in my career. The game against CSKA is something unique because I had two great seasons in Moscow, I like the people there and I want to say goodbye after a 19 year career this way”.
The chance to play in the same game with Fenerbache’s and CSKA’s jersey is once in a lifetime, but Mirsad will give his… minutes to his heirs: “I had two great years in CSKA but Fenerbahce is my big love. Of course I want to thank CSKA organization because they‘ll come here and spend a day in order to say goodbye to me. I just want to play with Fenerbahce for 5-6 minutes because during the last three months of my career, I couldn’t even run. I don’t like to look bad, being out of shape. It will be better for me to play a little, to score an easy basket and then say goodbye…”
This summer a lot of legendary Euroleague players like Turksan, Siskauskas, Garbajosa, Stonerook, Burstein and others retired…. “It’s not a surprise for me, because we have played for a lot of years too many games, about 70 per season. It’s not easy to play in full tempo for Euroleague and domestic competitions. I still feel tired in my body and my mind. I want to stay in everybody’s memory as someone who was jumping all the time, was trying always for the best. I could play for one or two more years but my biggest motivation was to retire as a great basketball player in a great club like Fenerbahce. I feel very happy that I am 36 years old and healthy. I want to enjoy my life and my kids and I didn’t want to risk a serious injury”.
Mirsad started his career back in 1993 in Fenerbahce’s biggest rival, Efes Pilsen playing there for six years and after his season in the NBA, he return to Europe for Racing Paris (2000-01), CSKA Moscow (2001-02 and 2003-04), Montepschi Siena (2002-03) and Dynamo Moscow (2004-05) before signing in 2005 to his last and favorite at the end team, Fenerbahce.
Turkcan is the first Turkish player who signed to an NBA team and he owns Euroleague’s rebounding record, having 1.287 in his career, 235 more than the second on the list. However, he isn’t hooked on those numbers. “The fans have a lot of reasons to remember me, but for me the best thing is that everyone in Europe believes that I was a hard working player. The records are behind me now and everything is going to be broken one day. I hope for the young players that play now to achieve this soon. I wish them health and good luck. For me the records are just a nice part of my life”.
He made the big step in his career in 1999 by signing with the New York Knicks. He played there only 7 games, he was traded to Milwaukee Bucks, he played 10 more games and then he came back to Europe.
This is not what could had happened, if he was a little more patient: “That’s my big mistake. Now, when I think about my whole career, I recognize that. In the NBA, it’s important to be in the right place the right time. I wasn’t and I’m sorry for that. I came back to Europe, I had great career, I met great coaches and players but I think I could have had the chance to play there for 5-6 years if I were in a different team. At the end, I don’t regret anything”.
And what is going to happen next to the guy that spent his last 19 years playing professional basketball? “I will stay in basketball. I will be director of Fenerbahce’s Euroleague relations and abroad contacts. I’m happy that I stay involved in basketball. I think I’ll be good because I know people from European and world basketball”.
So, what are his impressions about the new Fenerbahce team as an… insider? “We have great players. Mike Batiste, David Andersen, Bo McCalebb and Romein Sato are very experienced and quality players. We have also good Turkish players and new coach Simone Pinigiani who is one of the best coaches in the Europe. We just need to have good chemistry and I think we will, because a lot of our players like to win. Also, the Turkish league will be tough this season because Efes and Galatasaray created good teams and also Besiktas and Banvit are strong. In Euroleague there will be a lot of challenges for us. I think it’s the time for Fenerbahce to achieve something great this season. Our goal is the Final Four. Why not? We have a lot of guys who know how to play in big games”.
But the competition will be fierce. Fenerbahce has spent a lot of money but also CSKA, Barcelona, Olympiacos, Real Madrid, Panathinaikos have a lot of chances to be in London and get the trophy. As Mirsad says: “I never look at the budgets. The most important thing is chemistry. And I think our Turkish players know each other and can make it work with our new players. Generally, I think there are 7-8 teams that have the quality to win Euroleague. Of course, we have good chances, but it’s too soon for predictions”.