Caner-Medley’s Corner- Unruly fans, death threats, and the price of fame

medley8This week on Caner-Medley’s Corner, Nik gives us a chilling first-hand look at what it’s like dealing with unruly fans, which can at times lead to things like death threats.
He also talks about what it’s been like living and playing in war-torn countries, an experience that has been particularly unique for him- a 6 foot 7 basketball star from America.
I’ve also included footage of a complete game that Nik recently played in, and a great highlight reel:
“There are pros and cons to not having a clue what people are saying when we travel to road games.

After playing in Spain for six seasons I knew the Spanish language well and could understand when fans were telling me where to go and how to get there… on the flip side it made everyday life a lot easier because I could communicate with people and even defend myself in a “kind” way when opposing fans and players harassed me.

Spain was generally pretty light in terms of heckling, it’s the road games in places like Turkey, Italy, and Russia where the fans were especially harsh to American players.
I can remember like it was yesterday a game I played in Istanbul, Turkey. We were playing a well known club in Europe named Galatasaray in an intimate setting because their home gym was being used for a concert.
Caner-Medley playing against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Caner-Medley playing against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

This team is famous for not only their basketball organization but especially their soccer team. The fans are like Cameron Indoor fans at Duke on “Real Life.”

These aren’t mommy’s boys and nerds with their little face paint kits like at Duke though. These are mostly drunk, angry, lunatics who like to throw things at you, spit at you, and call you “American Devil” until their face is dark red and sweating. I have never seen anything like it.
When I played for Maccabi Tel Aviv and we played in Istanbul we were accompanied by Shabak at all times. Shabak is Israel’s highest level of government security service.
Sherut haBitachon haKlali, aka SHABAK, known in English as the Israel Security Agency (ISA).

Sherut haBitachon haKlali, aka SHABAK, known in English as the Israel Security Agency (ISA).

We traveled in two buses so any potential terrorists would not be able to identify which bus we were in.  We were transported with an armored truck of armed IDF soldiers to protect us from potential ground attacks.
This was during a time where missiles  were being fired at Tel Aviv and landing less than a mile from my house. It was an experience looking back I am stronger from after going through, but at the time, as you can imagine, it was very uncomfortable.
Here in Astana we don’t play in a local league. We play in two leagues, one is composed of the top teams in Eastern Europe; Russia, Serbia, Lithuania, ect., historically the strongest basketball countries in Europe.
In addition we play in the Eurochallenge, composed of some of the top budget teams in Europe. With all the different opponents stretched across Europe and Asia, we travel A LOT, and play in numerous hostile environments.
We recently played a Eurochallenge game in Italy. The team was out of Brindisi, a beautiful town on the southern coast of Italy. It was 70 degrees and sunny and the food was way too good! Basically they lulled us to sleep.
Brindisi, Italy

Brindisi, Italy

We played in a gym that held 5,000 people and it was a mad house! Not only were the fans allowed to smoke IN THE GYM, but on top of that the fans were literally on the court surrounding the whole arena. They all had those terrible noise makers that had my ears ringing at halftime, I couldn’t even hear what the coach said one foot from me in the timeouts!
It was in the top five for loudest gyms I have ever been in. We ended up losing a close game but I was happy to get out of there in one piece.
In a two hour span I heard, “we know your hotel (named it), we are mafia from (some family I never heard of), and we are going to wait for you after the game.” Also, “don’t eat the food in your hotel after the game, we will poison it.”
It was all honestly entertaining to me, and it was an exciting environment and is a classic example of how seriously these countries take their basketball in 2015. It’s really cool to see over the past nine years of traveling around Europe how much the game’s popularity continues to increase on this side of the world.
We finally had a home game this week and won, it was a very important game that puts us in the early lead of our group in the top sixteen teams in the league. Our group (or division, for those of you more familiar with NBA terminology) consists of four teams, including us, and we play each team home and away and the top two teams from the group advance to the final eight for a best out of three series.
The winner of that series advances to the final four at the end of the season. My goal is to get us to the final four, it would be a huge huge accomplishment for this team, and most people would tell me to keep dreaming, but I have learned if you don’t set your goals high, and put that pressure on yourself to exceed expectations, you will always wind up settling with mediocrity.
I prefer to be dream big and be disappointed because that disappointment drives me to my next goal. It’s not how many times you fall that defines you, its how many times you stand up and keep fighting!
Take care, until next time, wishing everyone the best.”
Here is the highlight reel, remember that Nik is number 22 in yellow:
And here is the full game footage of Astana’s game against Energia:
Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.