For now, the free agent is still hoping for a spot on the NBA roster this fall, the veteran big man (and one of the league’s most outspoken critics of social justice issues, particularly those related to Chinese politics) may have played his last basketball game. For professionals. . But he made up for any lull in basketball activity with a world tour that served as the headline for multi-faith basketball clinics, including one held at Temple Sinai in Los Angeles earlier this month.
The August 10 Clinic, co-hosted by the Islamic Alliance for America (who have formed exemplary partnerships with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Golden State Warriors) and Temple Sinai, the oldest and largest conservative Jewish gathering in the Greater Los Angeles area, brought together more than 100 student-athletes of various faiths from Grades 1 through 8 included not only Freedom but also former Yeshiva University basketball player Ryan Turrell.
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“People from different faiths, different cultures came in and we had a great time,” Freedom told the Atlanta Jewish Times the day after the clinic. “We learned a lot from each other.”
The clinic, which consisted of an hour of drills and brawls followed by a Freedom and Turell panel discussion, moderated by Rabbi Erez Sherman of Temple Sinai, sprang up in late June at the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit in Washington. , D.C., when Freedom – a devout Muslim and political opponent of Turkey who has been exiled for speaking out against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – coincidentally met Omar Kudarat, founder of the Islamic Alliance for America and a child of Afghan immigrants who had grown up. On the basketball courts in Los Angeles, who was searching for a slender name for his clinic.
“he is [Qudrat] He invited me to this beautiful event,” says Freedom, who has emerged as one of the most prominent human rights activists in professional sports in North America. “I immediately said, ‘This is the one thing I’m really looking for in America.’”
Less than a week before the Temple Sinai clinic, Freedom concluded its week-long Anis Kanter Basketball Camp for the YMCA in Jerusalem, which included dozens of Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Druze children aged 10 to 15, as well as children. Auburn University men’s basketball team.
For the already well-traveled Freedom, whose upbringing included spending time in Switzerland, Turkey and Southern California—a year later at the University of Kentucky before his NBA career took him to Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, New York, Boston, and Portland—the Israel camp afforded him the opportunity to do A long-awaited trip.
“I’ve never been to Mecca before, but Israel, and especially Jerusalem, was definitely the holiest place I’ve ever been to,” says Freedom, who had aspirations to become an astronaut before starting his basketball party. “Went to visit the old city. It was so beautiful it literally takes you back to 2000 years ago. It’s so much travel time. [experience]. You can taste all this religion and culture in one place.”
He also couldn’t believe how similar the Israeli food and songs were to what he was accustomed to in his native Turkey.
“I went to Saturday dinner there and the only thing about Shabbat dinner that’s my favorite is that every Friday there’s like Thanksgiving dinner going on in a house. It was like a fiesta. I’m definitely looking forward to going back.”
Before he returns, there are more multi-religious basketball clinics run by the United States. As his dear friend now knows, Qudrat, religion does not enter into the process of picking or making a quick breakfast.
“I think sport is the biggest tie-breaker and it’s America’s superpower,” Qudrat says. “The part that’s better [of the event] I would see Christian children, Muslim children, Jewish children, white children, black children, children from Afghanistan and Iran and so forth, all together and they did not think for a second about any of those things I just mentioned.”
Especially for children of parents who have migrated from their home countries and go through the arduous process of adjusting to a new culture, playgrounds (or hard courts) can be a haven.
“A lot of immigrant children don’t have all kinds of programs and they aren’t enrolled in adidas and Nike camps,” adds Qudrat, a prominent attorney and former US Department of Defense official who ran for Congress from California’s 52nd District. “Your own journey will be to find the sport you love.”
The one-day clinic at Sinai Temple certainly provided many of these kids with the opportunity to realize their dream of becoming NBA players. It was a glorious event, and while it is not easy to pinpoint a single moment that exemplifies the spirit of unity and camaraderie in the gym, Freedom recalls:
“There was that moment when I got the rebound, dropped the ball, passed the ball to a Jewish kid, he passed one of them over to the Muslim kid, and then he scored. While he was getting his defense back, they were fighting each other. It was a beautiful moment. I would like to see More of those, not just in Los Angeles, but all over America.”