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Former NBA Player Josh Moore: My Heart will be with Iranians Forever

By Kourosh Ziabari


Josh Moore (Josh Moore personal archives)
Tehran - It sounds somehow outlandish to be an American athlete and social commentator, having the experience of playing in the most prestigious basketball league of the world, being the cousin of Shaquille O'Neal and meanwhile planning to depart from the "beacon of freedom" to the "axis of evil" so as to establish a new era in one's life.

The latter terms are those which ex-President Bush had coined during his tenure to point the USA and Iran respectively; the tags which soon became the permanent, inseparable catchphrases of his fervent anti-Iranian addresses and interviews.

The biased and disgustful portrayal of Iran in the American mainstream media under the incumbency of President Bush caused a collective indignation and contempt against the ancient, 15,000 year-old nation of Persia and emboldened the anti-Iranian sentiments all over the world; sketching a black and appalling outline of the Middle Eastern country and relegating the former "Cradle of Civilization" to an unattached part of the "Axis of evil".

However and so forth, the U.S. government could not manage to demonize and alienate Iran for all of its citizens. A stack of conscious, knowledgeable and cognitive American citizens including scholars, artists, athletes and journalists made trips to Iran over the past years in order to elicit the obscured reality of the misunderstood country.

Josh A. Moore, the professional American basketball player and the former member of NBA's Los Angeles Clippers squad was among those numerous western sportsmen who were employed by the Iranian athletic clubs during the past years despite the fact that the American government alongside its European allies had imposed several rounds of tough sanctions on the country to prevent it from possessing bilateral ties with the west in the terms of finance, science, culture etc.

Moore played college basketball for Michigan Wolverines and spent his professional career in Los Angeles Clippers. In 2007, he signed a contract with the Iranian BEEM Mazandaran team and left his Iranian home in the late 2008. He has so far appeared on three cinema movies; "Ball Don't Lie" is the most prominent of them. What follows is the complete text of interview with Mr. Moore where the amazing anecdotes and stories of his 1.5 year long presence in Iran, his witnesses and views on Iran are elucidated.

KZ: Dear Mr. Moore, let's start with your set off in Iran. You came to Iran in the heat of anti-Iranian propaganda, a perpetual agenda of American media which usually intimidates every foreign observer about the country. Weren't you afraid of coming to the "axis of evil"? Specially given that you were a NBA player and might have lost your international authenticity.

JM: When I decided to take the trip to Iran there was never a point where I had a sincere fear for my well-being or safety. As a professional athlete traveling becomes second nature to you so even with the propaganda I viewed the experience as being just another trip. In a lot of ways professional athletes are the last real descendents of gladiators. For the most part they are people who if not for sport would be amongst societies lost and outcast. They compete for the love of the challenge, respect of the people, and the spoils of success with the travel requirements being just another product of the culture. This is why I fully embraced the opportunity to compete in a different land and win over the respect of a different crowd. What people around the world need to understand is that there is a major difference between the feelings of the American general public and the views expressed by a few talking heads on American television and U.S. government. I really didn't have any concern about how my trip would be received back home in the United States because I knew that the American public was hungry to hear a different perspective about Iranian people that wasn't tainted by larger influences. Most Americans were aware that their strong feelings of anger and resentment after 9/11 was a direct result of a lack of information and no clear outspoken representation of the Arab world present on a daily basis, which is a result of the biased American media and century old Arab traditions. My biggest concern with taking the trip was the one hundred thousand dollar fine as a result of the U.S. sanctions against Iran for anyone who provided services to the country. But other than that I had no real misgivings about the trip and would actually love to do it again soon with my son.

KZ: Would you please give us a comparison between your conceptions before coming to Iran and following your presence in the country? Could you have anticipated that you were about to land in a country with thousands of Basketball freaks and those who appreciate the American players of their beloved squads?

JM: I really didn't expect the local support for the game to be what it was. The crowds were in some places massive and the support and knowledge of the global game was impressive. Iranian fans still need to learn how to give each sport its own signature feel and not just apply general event rituals to any event but other than that they were fine. In America there are rituals unique to every sport for example baseball has the 7th inning stretch, Football have tailgaters and Basketball has several well know chants. The fans in Iran who loved the game were recycling European soccer etiquette at basketball games which doesn't help give the game its own unique feel. I'm sure after all of those soccer chants most fans leave the game wanting to watch a soccer match not basketball highlights.

KZ: At the time you came to Iran, I believe, there were about 20 other American players who had been previously hired by the Iranian clubs, playing here. How close was your relations with them, and what were their rampant feelings about Iran, its people and environment?

JM: I really did not get a chance to talk to a lot of the players on different teams because of the extremely strict schedule enforced by the club I played for. I would expect that every players rampant perceptions of their time in Iran were shaped by their personal experience with the club they played for and the town they stayed in. The guys I did talk to really didn't have a stereotypical perception of Iran prior to their visit. Even though there is a lengthy history between Iran and America. Iran just recently became a part of the social consciousness to this new generation. Even though Iran was talked about in mainstream media and political circles in America one would be surprised how little of that actually trickles down to the everyday person. A few of the guys I talked to were extremely surprised at how different the views of the Iranian people were from that of the government. Most of the guys felt like outsiders trying to make friends in a place where they weren't welcomed. But I personally felt very welcomed by the people I encountered to so everyone's experience is difference.

KZ: The image that American media portray of Iran, I assume, mainly comprises the clichés which have been broadcasting over the past decades unendingly. The American media use to propagate the illustration of vast deserts, black-chador wearing women, destroyed houses and quake-hit home etc. so as to display Iran something similar to Iraq and Afghanistan. Have they been successful in their mission of misleading the public opinions about Iran?

JM: I'm not exactly sure if that's how Iran is portrayed in American media. Yes, it's true that the media represents the culture as being oppressive to the people of Iran and the woman but as far as the landscaping and geography goes I don't think they attempted to make it seem as undeveloped as other Middle Eastern nations. I think those stereotypes of the Middle East being all desert comes from a lack of traveling and world experiences by individuals not all "western citizens." The American government's fascination with Iran has been ongoing since the 1960's and I'm sure their mission to mislead the public about Iran is far from over. But unless the people of Iran step up and actively engage in dialogue about their community structure and openly discuss the things they don't agree with without fear of persecution then the greatest allies the U.S. Government will always be able depend on to distort the image of Iran will be the disgruntled defectors from Iran and people who would like to leave but can't.

President Obama talks about diplomacy with Iran and Secretary of State Clinton has said that its her top priority but what both of them fail to realize is that the diplomacy that need to take place between Iran and America needs to happen between the common house wife and average everyday underpaid worker. Those people need to understand that their lives are not much different and that their worries are practically the same. Those people have to make a conscious effort to understand each other without foolish apprehensions or destructive tribal behavior that segregates them from everyone else. I really believe that it's the Iranian tribal mentality that doesn't allow people to get to know them not an anti-Iranian sentiment.

KZ: Would you please give us your assessment of the Iranian people and their demeanor, behavior and deportment? How was their treatment with you in these years? Do you consider their moral and ethical observations as restriction and constraint?

JM: I have a lot of respect for Iranian people! Everyone I was in contact with from the plane ride in to my nightly seaside trips was extremely magnanimous. The people I encountered were extremely honorable, tolerant with great personalities. I think the American public would be shocked to know that Iranians are no different than them and that despite the overbearing laws the people of Iran are forced to live with there is an abundance of life and extraordinary living taking place in Iran. Iran is an extremely vibrant society that in some ways is very misunderstood. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done within Iran but that's not the job of the American military or government, it's the job of the Iranian youth to create a society better than the one they received.

KZ: Inarguably, the level of basketball in Iran is not comparable to that of USA. However, the Iranian national team has qualified to Olympics and the Iranian clubs snatched several Asian titles in the past years. What's your idea about the quality of basketball in Iran?

JM: I think there is a good deal of decent basketball talent in Iran. There is a significant amount of skill development work that needs to take place to improve the overall fundamental skills of the players and I would love to comeback and hold a series of basketball skill development workshops for the young kids who would like to learn how to play. I think the next generation of Iranian players will be very good. I predict that in the next 10-15yrs there will be an Iranian born player on an NBA All Star team. The rest of the basketball world really needs to take notice of what's going on in Iran.

KZ: And finally, I would like to know your idea about the probabilities of your prospective presence in Iran. Do you intend to return and play for Iranian clubs? What will you say to your compatriots about Iran?

JM: Currently I am back in the states developing my sports performance company and clothing line. My autobiography "Embracing Hard Choices: Basketball Politics 101" will hopefully be in stores this summer along with my currently untitled fitness workout book for teens and young adults. I would embrace the opportunity to host a private basketball skills development workshop within any Iranian community so that I can continue my strong relationship with Iranian people. My intentions for the future are to teach as many kids as possible how to properly train to compete at their highest level. I really enjoyed my time in Iran; my heart will always be with my friends there.

Kourosh ZiabariAbout the author: Kourosh Ziabari is an 18-year-old freelance blogger and journalist from Iran. He has published the book "7+1" which is a collection of his interviews with 7 contemporary Iranian authors. Ziabari is contributing author of; he is also the Iran-based correspondent of OhMyNews international.
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