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Alperen Sengun and Türkiye’s greatest NBA players of all time

When National Basketball Association (NBA) legend Kevin Durant was recently asked to name his favourite rising star in the basketball world, he pointed to the young Houston Rocket talent from Türkiye, Alperen Sengun.

“I would say I was going to give some love to Alperen Sengun. I like Sengun. He was dunking on a couple of people. I didn’t know he could get up like that. He’s nice. I like him”, the two-time champion said during a guest appearance on the NBA Hooper Vision show. 

This week, the NBA announced that the Houston Rockets player was selected for the second time for the Rising Stars Challenge, which will feature a three-game mini-tournament among four teams comprised of NBA rookies, sophomores and NBA G League Players.

The All-Star Weekend is set to take place at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on February 17-19, and the three-game mini-event will be held as part of the event.

20-year-old Sengun, who became the youngest Rockets player to ever record 30 points and 10 rebounds in a single game, is averaging a career-high 15.5 points and 8.9 rebounds, and 3.6 assists.

More impressively, Sengun has made history as the youngest Centre to reach 1,000 points and 200 assists in the NBA.

The historic achievements of Sengun have made Kevin Durant, alongside Türkiye and the basketball world, eager to watch how the Turkish talent’s career will turn out.

Currently, Türkiye has four players playing in the NBA: Cedi Osman from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Alperen Sengun from the Houston Rockets, Omer Yurtseven from the Miami Heat and Furkan Korkmaz from the Philadelphia 76ers.

Sengun and the others are following in the footsteps of trailblazing Turkish players who have left their mark on the history of the NBA and set standards high for the new generation.

Here is a list of Türkiye’s most impactful players in NBA history. 

READ MORE: Türkiye’s Sengun breaks Shaq’s record as youngest NBA centre with 33 points

Hidayet Turkoglu

Dubbed the “Turkish Michael Jordan”, Turkoglu’s NBA career spanned 15 years from the years 2000 to 2014, and included an NBA Finals appearance against the Late Great Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers, as well as a Sixth-Man of The Year award.

Turkoglu’s most memorable years came when he led the Orlando Magic alongside star Centre Dwight Howard. 

Throughout this time, the Turkish star was the lead playmaker on his squad and made many clutch basketball plays that drew Michael Jordan comparisons.

Turkoglu also participated in the 2010 FIBA World Championship hosted by Türkiye. 

The Turkish national team finished with the silver medal, having beaten every team except for Team USA, the champions. 

Following his retirement, Turkoglu was appointed CEO of the Turkish Basketball Federation.

Turkoglu was also appointed as an advisor to Türkiye’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mehmet Okur

Mehmet Okur, who plays in the same position as Alperen Sengun, is also the only Turkish basketballer to win an NBA Championship title.

After playing for the Pistons between 2002 and 2004, he played for the Utah Jazz between 2004 and 2011, and the New Jersey Nets between 2011 and 2012, during his 10-year NBA career.

In 2007, the three point shooting and rebounding machine made history when he became the first Turkish player to be named an All-Star.

After his retirement from active basketball in 2012 at the age of 33, Okur was named as an ambassador for the Utah Jazz from 2014 to 2016.

In September 2016, he agreed to become a player development coach for the Phoenix Suns.

Currently, Okur has been sharing his Basketball expertise with young Turkish talents as part of the coaching staff of the National Team.

Omer Asik

Nicknamed “The Turkish Hammer” and “Asik the Destroyer” by Bulls commentator Stacey King, Omer Asık, who also plays in the same position as Sengun, gained international recognition playing for the Turkish national team at the 2010 FIBA World Championship.

In the same year, the 2.13 metre-tall Turkish giant joined the NBA and had an impactful eight-year run in the league where he became known for his rebounding and defensive prowess. 

Ersan Ilyasova

When Ersan Ilyasova joined the NBA in 2005, his prospects weren’t considered as high as some of the other players in this list. However, after transitioning to the NBA from Spain’s FC Barcelona, Ilyasova had a consistent 14-year run in the NBA.

The Crimean Tatar-origin Turkish Forward was particularly beloved by the Milwaukee Bucks franchise, where he played for 9 seasons and became known for his hustle plays and outside shooting touch. 

READ MORE: More and more international players join NBA

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