Omar Jamaleddine: From TikTok post to World Cup hopeful
BEIRUT (Lebanon) - Everyone seems to be on TikTok these days. Some are there to entertain with their dance moves. Others with their memes. Some, like Omar Jamaleddine are on the platform to inspire.
"Playing for Lebanon in the World Cup [this] year is not a guarantee for me but it's something that I'm working towards."
Speak into existence
If you scroll down all the way to the bottom of Jamaleddine's TikTok feed, up until his first public post on the platform which was posted in July 2021, you'll see a thumbnail of the youngster dribbling on an asphalt court. He's wearing a simple grey tee, dribbling all alone on an empty outdoor court.
At the top of the screen, you'll see some letters in a red box.
Down at the top bottom, he explains a bit further:
"This is day 1 of me documenting my journey to become a professional basketball player."
@omar_jamaleddine #fypシ #basketball #NBA #overseas #dreamstoreality #hardwork #gleague #professional ♬ Invincible - Pop Smoke
When you watch through the clip, Jamaleddine continues to dribble as determined as ever.
"Hopefully I can inspire and motivate some people along the way."
The clip then begins to shift to him dribbling to the left into a jump shot as practice.
"Some people may not see my vision, but that's okay."
He then dribbles to the right into another jump shot.
"It will all be worth it one day."
The clip ends with Jamaleddine lobbing himself an alleyoop which he emphatically finished with his right hand.
Approximately one year and a half (and 105 TikTok posts) later, not only is Omar Jamaleddine a professional basketball player, he's already made his debut as a Lebanon national team player and has a chance to be on the squad that will play in the FIBA Basketball World Cup later this year.
The way this story started might make it seem like Jamaleddine's path has been fast-tracked, but that's far from how it has been.
"I started playing basketball when I was 9," Jamaleddine said. "I was first a soccer player - or as you would call it here a football player - and at 9, I started playing basketball and I fell in love right away."
With his passion for the sport came the ambition to succeed as reflected in his TikTok posts. Even though his first post was in 2021, his drive to play basketball at the highest level was developed much earlier even if, as he mentioned, some people might not have shared his vision.
"I always thought I would be really good at basketball but no one else did for a long time," said the 22-year-old. "I had to just believe in myself. I always told everyone that I was going to be a professional basketball player even when I was very short and had no chance but I kept believing in myself."
The New York native didn't stay short for too long as he grew to 1.90M (6'3") and developed athleticism that allowed him to seemingly float through the air to throw down highlight dunks. He immediately made an impact at NCAA Division III school Sarah Lawrence, starting in 46 of 54 games to average 18.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 32.9 minutes per game.
And he kept on putting in the work.
A couple of months after his "Day 1" post, his dream turned into reality as he signed with Champville in the Lebanese Basketball League.
In his first five games, Jamaleddine averaged 16.2 points and recorded two double-doubles. After scoring a season-high of 21 points, he cracked into the starting lineup in his sixth game and recorded another double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Then, it came to a halt.
After making the starting line-up and after announcing on his TikTok platform that he had officially "turned pro", Jamaleddine's following post would be less heartwarming. He had broken his hand, thus ending his rookie professional season.
Nonetheless, that could not douse the positivity and optimism that was always oozing from the high-flying youngster.
"This is the only sad video I'll post, everything happens for a reason," he wrote in the caption of his post.
@omar_jamaleddine This is the only sad video I’ll post, everything happens for a reason. #fyp #lebanesebasketball #lebanesebasketball ♬ original sound - The Meme Mecca
And he really meant it. Despite being injured, Jamaleddine continued to share his positivity, his road to recovery, and how he developed his game during that time. He kept on going.
Because even though he had turned pro as he had determined, he also had another target on his mind.
"As soon as I arrived in Lebanon, I was already thinking about playing for the national team and representing Lebanon," he said.
Jamaleddine said that he got called up to be a part of a national team tryout in 2021, but he eventually did not make the cut for that team. So the thought of playing for the Cedars as a part of the promising young core that was rising through Asia basketball had to be put on hold as he recovered from his hand injury.
After transferring to reigning league champions and WASL West Asia League contenders Beirut Club in this current season, Jamaleddine made a successful return to the court in October 2022. Then, when it was time for the national team to play in Window 5 of the Asian Qualifiers, Jamaleddine saw his name listed among the 12 players on the Lebanon roster.
"When I found out I made the team I was very excited to wear Lebanon across my chest and make the fans proud," he said of the prideful moment.
In two games across the window against India and New Zealand in Lebanon, the shooting guard averaged 3.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in 7.6 minutes per game.
"It was amazing playing for Lebanon for the first time," he said. "I was so happy and thankful that I got the opportunity. Winning these games on our homecourt, the emotions were unexplainable."
"I knew we had great fans, but I didn't know they were that good. I love them all and I appreciate their support."
Lebanon will be a bit further away from their fans in the upcoming Window 6 as they first travel to Manila for the game against the Philippines on February 24 before trekking further to Wellington to face the New Zealand on February 27.
There will not be much pressure on Lebanon as they are already qualified for the World Cup, which is another task scheduled for later in the year from 25 August to 10 September.
For Jamaleddine, he knows that it might be an uphill battle to make the roster. After all, he's still a relatively younger and less proven player in a deep pool of talents that includes players like Wael Arakji, Yousef Khayat, and Amir Saoud among others. He's been doing all he can to prove himself worthy, whether it's starring for Beirut Club in both the Lebanese Basketball League (12.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists per game in 11 games as starter) and WASL West Asia.
Now, he's just waiting for that call again.
"Playing for Lebanon in the World Cup [this] year is not a guarantee for me but it's something that I'm working towards," he said. "I really hope to be a part of that team."
He hasn't made a TikTok post about his journey toward playing in the World Cup just yet. He's been busy sharing his knowledge and experience about playing basketball at the professional level, in which fans and fellow ballers have been keen to engage.
Maybe when we see him make that post documenting his journey to Manila-Jakarta-Okinawa, he'll be able to speak it into existence once again.