Turkey's best basketball, marred by violence, again

By Henry Abbott

Turkey is home to some of the world's best professional basketball. Two days ago, for instance, rivals Galatasaray and Fenerbahce squared off, and the court was littered with past and future NBA players. The Bulls have high hopes for Ă–mer Asik, as the Cavaliers presumably do for Emir Preldzic and the Celtics for big man Semih Erden. Former NBA players like Tarence Kinsey, Lynn Greer, Darius Washington and Gordan Giricek were on the court, too, as Galatasaray earned an important win.

In addition to great basketball, though, Turkey is also one of the places on the planet where basketball sometimes has a soccer-induced hooligan problem.

At about the 3:19 mark of this video, you can see a brown-shirted fan run onto the court and wind up, and full running pace, to punch a player on the bench. According to multiple eye-witnesses and media accounts of the game, the player he hit was Kinsey, who can be seen flying into a rage attempting retaliation, before being hauled back by teammates.

Make fun of David Stern all you want for his sense of humor, but the NBA takes security fairly seriously, and that's not a bad thing.

Not long ago, Kinsey was scoring NBA points for Memphis or Cleveland. Now he's on the bench getting punched hard by a fan.

This is not exactly the first incident of its kind, either. These same clubs have seen similar things many times from fans of their related soccer teams.

And during last year’s Finals series, after the sixth and Final game between Efes Pilsen and Fenerbahce there was a similar scene.

Turkish TrueHoop reader Fatih Uzuner works for a sports marketing company, and has some insight.

As a sports professional, and a proud Turk, how does this make you feel?

I did not catch the game live (learning for my master’s exam) and got the link forwarded from a friend of mine from the Euroleague. My feelings in chronological order: shame, disbelief, irateness, embarrassment.

What's soccer's role here?

Soccer’s role is huge here. Fenerbahce plays in front of tiny crowds most of the time, even in the Euroleague (Fenerbahce is dead last in attendance). Only for games against soccer arch rivals Galatasaray and Besiktas, mostly soccer fans with no knowledge or appreciation for the sport of basketball whatsoever, come to the arena looking for trouble. Usually they swear a lot, are aggressive and more often than not, throw stuff on the court because of the lackadaisical security checks.

Worth mentioning: in other basketball regions like Antalya, Izmir or Bursa, fans are much more “civilized” and resemble the typical “Western Europe” indoor sports fans. More and more women and kids can go to basketball games in these cities/arenas.

Is this a sports problem, or something bigger?

The reasons behind these type of sports violence is societal and very deep-rooted. High (increasing) unemployment, low level of education and an unstable political, financial and societal landscape in general, lead to a growing latent aggression potential, especially amongst teenager and young grown-ups who usually have sports (mainly soccer) as their only purpose in life.

This issue goes much further and remains somewhat unexplored and unsolved.