Meet the Asia Cup 2022 Teams: Iran
JAKARTA (Indonesia) - Ever since their rise to the top of the Asia Cup, Iran have maintained their status as one of the teams to beat in the competition. After what has already been a decade of dominance, can they keep it up?
Let’s take a quick moment to meet Iran in this "Meet the Teams" series!
World Rank according to FIBA World Ranking Presented by Nike: 23
Iran are without a doubt one of the top teams in Asia & Oceania as their World Ranking suggests, while also being ranked 2nd in the region.
They have recent appearances in both the World Cup and Olympics and if they can string up another strong Asia Cup run, Iran should be able to hold on to their spot in the ranking for a while longer.
Asia Cup Debut: 1973
We’d have to go way back for Iran’s first appearance in the Asia Cup to 1973 in which the tournament was played in Manila.
Iran were able to make it through the Preliminary Round, but struggled against the powerhouses of the competition at the time whether it was the Philippines, South Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Japan.
Little did they know that a little over 30 years later and that script would be flipped as Iran would assert their dominance over the region instead.
Asia Cup Appearances (including 2022): 18
Iran have the most appearances among teams in West Asia with a total of 18.
The upcoming edition of the competition will be Iran’s 9th straight Asia Cup. There are only five other countries that have kept they Asia Cup appearances streaks alive for as long as Iran so far.
What’s more impressive is how well Iran have performed in these appearances, a topic we’ll touch on the paragraphs below.
Most Recent Appearance: 2017
Iran at Asia Cup 2017 were loaded. Though they missed having Samad Nikkah Bahrami, Iran were still able to parade a starting five of double-digit scorers with Oshin Sahakian coming off the bench.
Team Melli breezed through the competition with double-digit wins all the way to the Semi-Finals, even against strong opponents in Jordan and Lebanon. They then beat Korea for yet another trip to the Finals before finishing as runners-up.
Another bright spot in Iran’s Asia Cup 2017 run was Hamed Haddadi being named the MVP of the competition after averaging 16.2 points, 10.8 rebounds. 6.5 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game with a 20.5 efficiency rating.
Best Position in Final Standings: Champions (2007, 2009, 2013)
In the modern era of the competition (post 2000s), Iran are only one of two teams to have won multiple Asia Cups.
In 2007, Iran were a young up-and-coming squad and won a title which proved to be the “turning point” in Iran basketball.
The squad retained their core and ran it back in 2009. While many say defending a title is more difficult than winning the first one, the players one that team felt it might not have been so in this case.
“I have to say the second time [in 2009] was so easy. I'm telling you, we had confidence through the roof," Nikkah Bahrami added.
By the time they won their third title in 2013, it almost felt as if anything short of a championship was considered a disappointment.
This success is the result of having the Golden Generation which includes Haddadi, Nikkah Bahrami, Mahdi Kamrani, and Oshin Sahakian playing together from the youth level to the senior level and it has also inspired the next generation to try and keep the winning tradition going.
Notable Player(s): Hamed Haddadi
From Nikkah Bahrami, Kamrani, to Arsalan Kazemi, there are many, many players that have shined as the featured face of the Iran men’s basketball national team. Each have had their moments to shine as stars of Iran.
But there’s no denying that the biggest - metaphorically and literally - star has been Hamed Haddadi.
The former NBA talent has played around the world and that experience has certainly played a part in him being named an Asia Cup MVP for 4 times.
His size creates a huge impact on both offense and defense, but his passing skills and defensive awareness is what adds dimension to the two sides of the floor for Iran.
With 7 Asia Cup appearances, 3 titles, 4 MVPs, and 792 points scored, Haddadi is not just one of the biggest stars for Iran - he is also one of the biggest stars of the Asia Cup.
How they got here:
Iran were expected to cruise their way through the Qualifiers to make a return for Asia Cup 2022. While they did qualify as the first-place team in Group E, it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.
Close games against Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well as a loss to Syria rasied some concerns among fans, but nonetheless, Iran walked away with a 5-1 record. Still, they also had 3 wins of at least 38 points which means this just might be a sign of how high expectations are for the three-time Asia Cup winners.
Current Outlook: Transitioning
Though the members of the Golden Generation can (and have proved) that they can still ball at a high level, this is currently the time for the next wave of Iran basketball to step up.
Players like Behnam Yakhchali, Mohammad Jamshidi, and Arsalan Kazemi have certainly done their part of shouldering that responsibility but there have been some growing pains such as the shocking losses to Syria, as mentioned, and Kazakhstan (in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers).
Asia Cup 2022 should serve as a perfect platform for Iran’s next stars in line to put on display how they can keep Iran among the top teams in the Asia Cup.