My all-time Turkish lineup | Cedi Osman
CLEVELAND (USA) - Life without basketball is tough. This whole situation - and hopefully it gets better as soon as possible - it just makes me realize how much I miss it. Especially how much I miss playing for Turkey.
You know the feeling. You go out on the court. The arena is packed. Goosebumps just start going down your body as you hear the crowd singing the Turkish national anthem, in one voice, at the top of their lungs.
Goosebumps. Even now, getting goosebumps just thinking about it.
That's what gets us so motivated when we're playing for the national team. And also what makes us miss it so much, now that we are spending the days locked in the house, staying safe, working out on our own, watching TV, movies or playing Call of Duty with Ante 'Big Z' Zizic and Marin Maric on PlayStation.
Videogames seem to be the answer right now - if I'm not playing Call of Duty, I'm on my laptop for League of Legends, which I have to admit is a bit different. I have been playing it for so long, it's even got me thinking about maybe even being more serious about it, trying esports and Twitch.
But once the videogames end, I switch to other games. My old national team games, to be precise. I miss those a lot. And that also includes the youth events that I've played.
I keep some of those on a USB stick that I've got with me here. I've been lucky enough to win two gold medals, in the FIBA U18 European Championship in Latvia in 2013 and the FIBA U20 European Championship in Greece in 2014. That one, in Greece... That one really is special because it was my last ever youth tournament.
Re-watching the Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals and the Final, the three games where I played really well, that just makes me miss basketball even more these days.
But nothing beats playing in front of our crowd back home in Turkey. Historically, we've always been known as a team that deserves a lot of respect, whenever we're hosting an event.
I got to experience that back in 2017, when we hosted the FIBA EuroBasket. I don't know about the others, but me, personally, I can tell you that I was disappointed with our result. Sure, we had a tough draw. Sure, we ended up facing Spain in the Round of 16 – and you don't need me to tell you that Spain are one of the most talented teams around.
But at the same time, it was just one of those moments where I was really excited to go out and play in front of the packed crowd in Istanbul... and we were right there against Spain; we had a good, talented squad. But that's on me. I was disappointed, yeah. And I realize that one was on me.
"GETTING GOOSEBUMPS JUST THINKING ABOUT THE PACKED ARENA SINGING THE ANTHEM IN ISTANBUL."
However, that event should be just the beginning for us. We've got a fine young team right now and if we are able to stay together in the years to come, I'm positive we could do big things, perhaps even reach the heights of the previous big generations of the Turkish national basketball team. The ones that climbed the podium in FIBA EuroBasket 2001 and then FIBA Basketball World Cup 2010.
And with that big dream in mind, catching those great generations, it got me wondering. What would actually be my all-time Turkish lineup?
Point guard - Kerem Tunceri
No doubt. I've played with him in both the national team and Anadolu Efes at club level. I've always liked his game, and being there on the court with him, I can tell you that he's got what every point guard needs. He just keeps the situation under control all the time, controls the game, controls his teammates, always puts them in the right spot. Oh, and it helps that he is not afraid to come up big in the clutch moments. Remember 2010? Exactly. Kerem Tunceri is my point guard.
Shooting guard - Myself/Furkan Korkmaz
Okay, so what are the rules here? Am I allowed to pick myself or not? I mean, if I'm in, I'm playing the "two" spot because of all the other guys in my All-Star Five. But if I'm not allowed in, I'm getting Furkan Korkmaz as my "two" man.
Furkan is just a great shooter. He definitely showed that this season, and definitely showed that he deserves more playing time. The fact that the season is suspended for now is hard on all of us, but with the way he was playing, it's probably even harder on him. But let me tell you this about Furkan. If you watch him on the court, you'll never see him smile. Or show any emotion. He's a high confidence guy, cold blooded, which is why I want him on my team, and I'm confident he's gonna keep playing once we're back on the court. He just needed a chance, I'm really happy for him. He's gonna keep playing, I'm 100 percent sure.
Small forward - Hidayet Turkoglu
You know Hedo. You know the great stuff he did back in Orlando Magic. You know what he did for our nation in 2010. I was 15 at the time, back home in Turkey, watching the whole World Cup on TV, and enjoying Hedo's game all the time. That game against Serbia in the Semi-Finals... I mean, because of Hedo, history was made in 2010. History. Was. Made.
I can't really remember the first time I met him in person. You know, I'm not that kind of guy who shows a lot of emotion when I'm talking to... well, to anybody, really. And I'm especially not showing emotion when I'm talking to someone who I considered to be like an idol, a role model to me. I don't want to talk to them as a fan.
The only thing I want to do is go out there and ask them real questions, like, how to get better in a certain way. And Hedo, he was just so great in using his body when he was playing. He was, what, like 6ft 9in? 6ft 10in? 2.08 in meters? That was a big body. He knew how to use it to perfection, so we would always talk about post moves, he always tried to help me in that part of the game. I'm putting him at the "three."
Power forward - Ersan Ilyasova
Well of course. Ersan, he's a true professional. He plays the game the right way. No matter what happens on the floor, what's the score, just look at him - Ersan is ALWAYS doing his thing the right way. And with all the training camps over the summer and the national team games over the years, we really spent a lot of time together, just chatting about everything. You can learn so much from a guy like Ersan. He was always there early for the practice, always doing everything as hard as he could, working on his body. And he was always the last man to leave the court after the practice. Just a true pro. And that's what made him a great player. Actually, that's what makes him a great player, even now. He's my "four" guy.
Center - Mehmet Okur
Bad game? Good game? Tough moments? Nice ones? You know who's the first one to call? It's always Memo. We're really good friends, we talk all the time, and the talks with Memo helped me a lot throughout my career. And he was most definitely a great player. I actually did some workouts with him, and when you get to see that shot of his firsthand... That's art. Art. The huge arc. The way the ball leaves his hand. Beautiful.
I'm not sure I'd say he is underrated with everything he's done in his career. It probably seems that way, but you know what? Anywhere you go and talk to people around the league - they all know who Mehmet Okur is. They all know The Money Man. He had a really good great career.
No matter what happens, he'll always be the first Turkish player who won an NBA championship. And my center in this team.
So there you have it: Kerem, Furkan or myself, Hedo, Ersan and Memo. Home court arena? I'm gonna say Sinan Erdem. No, wait... How about... Well, I've rarely had a chance to play there with the national team, but I think I'll switch that one to Abdi Ipekci.
When it's packed, Abdi Ipekci is something completely unbelievable.
It's my team, playing a home game in the Abdi Ipekci. Of course, we just have to have everybody singing the national anthem before the imaginary game starts. Packed, in one voice... As I said, nothing gets us pumped up like that before the game.
And since this whole thing is just a game, I'm picking every single player from my lineup to be in the prime of their career at the same time. If we're all in our prime, I'm for sure picking us to beat the 2001 Turkey team that won the silver medal at FIBA EuroBasket. Definitely.
The one from 2010? Hmmm... That one is a bit more complicated because it was so deep with Kerem, Omer Onan, Hedo, Ersan, Omer Asik... I'd say that game would be a close one.
But still... Yeah, I think we're winning that one, too.
An all-around star and poster boy for the current generation of Turkish basketball, Cedi Osman is on a mission to lead the 12 Giant Men to greatness. When he's not on national team duty, Cedi plays small forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA.