Get ready Philadelphia to be adding some somagh to your Philly Cheesestakes.
Arsalan Kazemi, Esfahan’s favorite son, and former University of Oregon star, was selected in Thursday’s NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. The 6-foot-8 Kazemi becomes the first Iranian-born player to be drafted in the NBA. The Sixers used the second round of the draft to jockey into position to select Kazemi, a rebounding wunderkind, with the 54th overall pick. His average of 15 boards per game during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships gained notice. But it was the fact that he led the Oregon Ducks to a deep run in the tournament with a Sweet Sixteen appearance that catapulted Kazemi onto the radar of any inattentive NBA scouts. The 23 year old now joins Hamed Haddadi of Ahvaz as the only two Iranian nationals to ever reach the NBA. It is a monumental feat to get drafted in the NBA considering the fact that there are only 60 spots and thousands of players in college and the international level who are scouted on a year round basis.
Kazemi is a member of the Iranian Men’s National Basketball Team along with Haddadi. Reaching the NBA is not a foregone conclusion despite innate ability, size or international experience. Kazemi’s command of the paint, impressive numbers at Rice University (prior to transferring to Oregon), and his NCAA Tournament successes are some of the factors that led a myriad of NBA teams to invite him to their pre-draft workouts. Kazemi worked out with over a dozen NBA teams to showcase his talents on the court during the month of June prior to Thursday’s draft. Some teams such as the Golden State Warriors didn’t even have a draft pick and still invited Kazemi to their camp to see the esteemed Esfooni in person. It is his humility despite national attention and laudable success at an early age that is also an inspiration for the Iranian community.
Kazemi spoke to CBS-Philadelphia in Brooklyn after being selected on Thursday. “It means a lot to me, it means a lot to my country,” he said. “They’ve been up all night watching the draft to see if I get drafted. It kind of feels like we kept the dream alive for a lot of kids back home.” Not only did Kazemi keep the dream of reaching the NBA alive but turned that elusive dream that many have into an exhilarating reality that few experience.