Oklahoma City Thunder

How religion figures in the story of Turkey invalidating NBA center Enes Kanter's passport

How religion figures in the story of Turkey invalidating NBA center Enes Kanter's passport

Not long ago, my son Keaton — one of the world's most devoted Oklahoma City Thunder fans — met center Enes Kanter at a local Arby's. Keaton took a selfie with Kanter and was quoted in an NBA.com feature about Thunder players serving up "acts of kindness":

“There’s something unique about the team and how the guys are committed to the community by getting out there and doing work,” said Keaton Ross, a student at Oklahoma Christian.

I'm only a casual Thunder fan — baseball is my sport — but I'm fascinated with the 25-year-old Kanter, who must boast one of the NBA's top senses of humor. For example, Kanter tweeted this last year after a Thunder beat writer from The Oklahoman left to cover the Golden State Warriors — Kevin Durant's new team — for the San Jose Mercury News.

More recently, though, the "Turkish-born big man" has been making serious national headlines. And even though it may not be clear from news reports, there is a strong religion angle. More on that in a moment.

But first, the crucial background: As a helpful, big-picture Wall Street Journal report notes today, Turkey invalidated the NBA player's passport earlier this month as part of a global arrest strategy:

ISTANBUL — Turkey is expanding efforts abroad to capture opponents by canceling their passports to force foreign governments to send them back, Turkish officials said, describing a strategy that nearly netted an NBA player this month.
The efforts accelerated this spring in what one of the officials said is part of a counterterrorism campaign focused on Turkish followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan whose network Turkey classifies as a terrorist group.
Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter told The Wall Street Journal he narrowly escaped a government attempt to force him back to Turkey after his passport was abruptly invalidated during a multination charity tour that included stops at schools affiliated with Mr. Gulen’s movement.
The NBA player, a 25-year-old legal U.S. resident, has been outspoken in his support for Mr. Gulen and criticism of Mr. Erdogan. Mr. Kanter was allowed to return following the intervention of U.S. and NBA officials.

What is Turkey's problem with Gulen? More from the WSJ:

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'You can't give in': an incredible story of faith and forgiveness by NBA coach after wife's tragic death

'You can't give in': an incredible story of faith and forgiveness by NBA coach after wife's tragic death

"Dude. This was a hard read. Never take anything for granted, because every normal day is a blessing."

I first heard about Sports Illustrated's in-depth feature on former Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams when my son Brady tweeted the above comment.

Then my friend Darin Campbell posted a link to the same story on Facebook with this note: "If you read one thing this week, read this." One of Campbell's friends followed his advice and replied:  "I'm not sure there is a verbal response for this."

Amen.

Suffice it to say that Sports Illustrated senior Chris Ballard dives deep and insightfully into the life and mindset of "Monty Williams, the woman he loved, and the power of persistence."

Interest in the story of Monty and Ingrid Williams has been extremely high, of course, since the tragic death of the coach's wife 14 months ago. I wrote more than 200 GetReligion posts in 2016, but my most-clicked one concerned holy ghosts in initial reporting on the Williamses.

Days later, Monty Williams' faith-filled remarks at his wife's funeral at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City rocked the sports world.

Now comes the Sports Illustrated piece, which fills in the gaps of Monty and Ingrid Williams' journey — before, during and after the events of Feb. 9, 2016 — in a way that's hard to explain.

You just have to read it:

 

 

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2016 in review: A GetReligionista reflects on his Top 10 most-viewed posts

2016 in review: A GetReligionista reflects on his Top 10 most-viewed posts

Journalists love year-end lists.

It's our way of filling holiday space with content we've already produced so we can focus on more important things, like family, Christmas lights and New Year's celebrations.

Um, just in case my boss is reading this (instead of watching "It's a Wonderful Life" for the umpteenth time), what I meant to say was: "Year in review" lists are a great way to reflect on the past year while thoughtfully looking ahead to the new one. 

I write four posts a week for GetReligion. In a year, that adds up to more than 200 times that I share my critiques of religion news coverage (or lack of coverage) by the mainstream media. 

Since you do me the courtesy of reading my posts and frequently commenting on them — both here on the website and via channels such as Twitter and Facebook — I thought you might be interested in my most-read posts of 2016. 

There's a mix of sports, politics, entertainment, human interest, Godbeat news and culture war stuff among my top 10. And yes, Donald Trump figures in two of the top three posts.

Drum roll, please ...

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Kevin Durant bombshell: Could reporters have spotted ties that bind during 'chapels'?

Kevin Durant bombshell: Could reporters have spotted ties that bind during 'chapels'?

When it comes to NBA culture, Oklahoma City is not your normal town. That's a #DUH statement, right there.

Over the years, this theme about Oklahoma City being a family-friendly, Bible Belt kind of place has figured into the story of Kevin Durant, a superstar who has never hidden his faith, all the way back to his Christian high school. (I met him, briefly, when he was being recruited by Baylor and I was on campus for a speaking gig. He did a one-and-done thing with the University of Texas, of course.)

Our own Bobby Ross, Jr., has written about this part of the Durant story -- here and here, for example -- noting that the national press has rarely connected the dots on the faith side of things.

So now Durant has left family-values land to join the Golden State Warriors, heading to northern California, and the hip, secular Bay Area to be specific. That's a big surprise and surely there isn't a faith angle to that outrageous move. Right?

Well, it appears that there is a link there. For example, check out the YouTube at the top of this post. Yes, it's over-the-top evangelical and not news material. But do you spot any Golden State Warriors in it? That brings me to this interesting passage in a feature -- "How the Warriors got Kevin Durant" -- at USA Today:

The Warriors had been hearing that Durant had eyes for their franchise for a while. ... Part of it was relationship-based, with Durant growing close with Warriors players in recent years -- none more so than Curry and super sixth man Andre Iguodala during the FIBA World Championships in 2010.

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On the day after Fourth of July, four Godbeat developments you'll want to know about

On the day after Fourth of July, four Godbeat developments you'll want to know about

Welp. It was quite a Fourth of July here in Oklahoma City.

Perhaps you heard the news about Thunder superstar Kevin Durant's Independence Day.

Yes, there's a religion angle. But we'll save that for a post later this week from our own tmatt, GetReligion's resident expert on faith and the NBA.

As I join my fellow Oklahomans in mourning Durant's departure, the day after the Fourth of July (that would make it July 5, right?) seems like an opportune time to update readers on four key developments on the Godbeat:

1. The Religion Newswriters Association is no more.

No, the professional organization for Godbeat pros has not disbanded. It's thriving, in fact. But it has a new name: Religion News Association.

Here's how a news release from RNA (yes, that acronym is still correct) explains the change:

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#ThunderUp: Jumping on O-K-C bandwagon and exploring religion ghosts on sports page

#ThunderUp: Jumping on O-K-C bandwagon and exploring religion ghosts on sports page

I'm not a huge basketball fan. Baseball is my sport.

But I live in Oklahoma City, and my sons, Brady and Keaton, are Thunder fanatics. The team's surprisingly strong playoff run against historic powerhouses San Antonio and Golden State has the Thunder one win from the NBA Finals. 

With Loud City — OKC's earsplitting fandom — in a frenzy, I've jumped on the bandwagon. 

Thunder up,  y'all!

If you're a regular GetReligion reader, you already know there's a Godbeat angle with the Warriors — the Thunder's Western Conference finals opponent and the team that won an NBA-record 73 games this season.

Think Stephen Curry, the first unanimous NBA MVP.

But what about Oklahoma City? Any potential religion angles here? Ya think?

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A grieving husband. A stirring eulogy. The video that rocked the sports world

A grieving husband. A stirring eulogy. The video that rocked the sports world

On Friday, I drove from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas, to visit my parents. Somewhere along Interstate 35 south of the Red River, I flipped the FM dial to a Dallas sports talk station.

I hoped to hear discussion of my favorite team, the Texas Rangers, arriving at spring training and the outlook for the upcoming season.

Instead, I found myself mesmerized by two sports talk hosts focused on faith and forgiveness — and the rousing eulogy that Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams gave for his wife, Ingrid, on Thursday.

"I'm jealous of someone with that kind of faith," said one of the hosts, as questions of life and death suddenly trumped draft picks, trade deadlines and even the Dallas Cowboys.

In this space 10 days ago, I pointed out holy ghosts in the initial media coverage of Ingrid Williams' death in an Oklahoma City car crash.

My previous post went a little viral, receiving thousands of clicks after Monty Williams' funeral remarks, as folks searched for more details about the family's faith.

The coach's eulogy certainly grabbed the sports world's attention:

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Tragic death of NBA coach's wife Ingrid Williams and a missing element in the news

Tragic death of NBA coach's wife Ingrid Williams and a missing element in the news

That could have been my wife.

Rightly or wrongly, many of us tend to judge tragedy by how close to home it strikes.

For me, that's the case with the death of Ingrid Williams, wife of Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams.

Ingrid Williams was 44, about the same age as my wife. She was driving with her kids — about the same age as mine — on an Oklahoma City street that my family travels often. She was an innocent victim — hit head-on by a vehicle that veered into her lane. She also was a person of strong Christian faith.

In its initial coverage, The Oklahoman reported the news this way:

Ingrid Williams, the wife of Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams died Wednesday from injuries suffered in a multiple-vehicle car crash Tuesday in Oklahoma City.
“The Thunder organization has heavy hearts tonight with the news of Ingrid's passing,” the Thunder said in a statement released Wednesday evening. “Words cannot adequately describe how deep our sorrow is for the loss of Monty's wife.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Monty and his family, and we will support him in every way possible. We know the entire community of Oklahoma City has them in their prayers.”

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NBA MVP Kevin Durant thanks God, but media fail to notice

I am not a big NBA fan, although I did attend Monday night’s Oklahoma City Thunder playoff game, thanks to my 16-year-old son Keaton, who bought me a ticket. It’s hard to witness Durant’s rare combination of extreme talent and uncommon humility and not be impressed. The latest example came Tuesday when a teary-eyed Durant won his first NBA Most Valuable Player Award and — in a speech for the sports ages — deflected the attention from himself.

If you haven't seen @KDTrey5 's MVP acceptance speech-that was stunning. His story. Humility. What a beautiful role model for my children.

Finally getting to watch video of @KDTrey5 speech at MVP ceremony today. Wow. This is the stuff of sports legend. Just amazing.

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