Enes Kanter Freedom, Powerful Activist? Yes. NBA Star? No.


Patrick Stevenson, Editor

It’s no small feat to make the NBA. Statistically speaking, anyone pursuing a career in basketball has only a 1 in 3333 or .03% chance of making the NBA. Even those whose professional careers don’t pan out in the Association are still among some of the best athletes in the world. 

However, don’t let this fool you, there still is a hierarchy of performance in the NBA. Players such as LeBron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant lead the league as some of the best performers, while others such as, let’s say, Enes Kanter showcase the bottom of the NBA. 

Enes Kanter Freedom, as he is now known, has been in the midst of a string of controversies dating back to 2016. It all began when he loudly voiced his disapproval of the Turkish government. He then criticized China and its many human rights violations, including the enslavement of Uyghurs. He’s feuded with league officials over his controversial footwear that showcased protests against China and Turkey and he’s even beefed with Lebron James, accusing the star of “praising money over morals.” 

Kanter’s on court career however, has been a constant strand of mediocrity. He began his NBA journey with the Utah Jazz in 2011, never averaging over 13 points per game on the squad. He then was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015 and, in what many believe to be his prime season, averaged a solid 14 points and 11 rebounds per game during the 2016 regular season. Kanter was then passed around the NBA, to the Boston Celtics, then the Portland Trail Blazers, back again to the Celtics and finally ending up on the Houston Rockets, where he was released only a week ago. 

With Kanter’s departure from the league, many have been quick to assume that Kanter was so called “blackballed” from the NBA due to his harsh criticism of China and the position that put NBA teams and executives in. 

Convservative political commentator Nick Adams tweeted, “Enes Kanter Freedom gave up a likely Hall of Fame career in order to fight for human rights in China.” Such a foolish comment showcases how these commentators jumped on this issue with no knowledge of what it entailed. 

Republican Representative of Kentucky Andy Barr also chimed in saying, “Enes Freedom is a champion for human rights & freedom. He is still at the top of his game. Now, the NBA is disgracefully punishing him for his criticism of the brutality of the Chinese Communist Party.” I don’t believe Representative Barr has watched too many of Kanters game’s this past season or maybe he believes that averaging three points and four rebounds per game can be categorized as being “at the top of his game.”

I agree with most of what these commentators and congressmen are saying, Enes Kanter did have the courage to stand up to China and Turkey and we should all commend him for that. What I take issue with is the notion that he was simply cut off from the league because of these beliefs. At the end of the day the NBA is still a job, if you don’t have the capability to perform at the highest level for your team and franchise then you won’t find yourself on any team’s roster. Kanter does not currently hold the skill set that has kept him in the league for a while, whether he will continue to train and pursue a return to the league has yet to be seen. 

One thing we can guarantee is that Kanter won’t be joining many former NBA players who play in the lucrative Chinese Basketball League.