Photo: FIBA

JAKARTA, Indonesia — As the final buzzer was sounded on Saturday in Indonesia Arena to conclude Lebanon’s World Cup dub over Iran, the entire basketball world shifted its focus to Hamed Haddadi.

It has been a well deserved moment to direct the attention to the 38-year-old big man. Haddadi, who served as the pillar of Iranian basketball for over two decades, is finally calling it quits at the scenes of international play. 

As a way of tribute to honor his greatness and contribution, both the Iranian and Lebanese squad mobbed Haddadi at the center circle and eventually celebrated with the gentle giant at the middle.

The heartwarming event just flashed the special value that the big man has to the entire history of Asian basketball.

“I have had a long career with the national team since the 2000s,” Haddadi said after his last game. “I try to play when I can even if I’m out of shape. I feel good, but I feel upset too because I leave my team.”

Haddadi willed his way to play tremendously for the final match of his illustrious national career, going off for 14 points and eight boards for 27 minutes of play.

But the Wael Arakji-led Lebanon was too much to overcome as Iran settled for a tough 81-71 defeat to close out their World Cup activities with a winless record.

In the end, Haddadi can only be thankful about still being able to participate and lead Iran to this year’s World Cup. The center went through an urgent recovery from his Achilles injury just to find himself for a fourth FIBA Championship run.

“I want to give a special thank you to my doctor here who has been with me for more than 10 years. Thank you for pushing me even if I already want to quit. I wish the best for the national team. We have talent but we also have to be patient if they need anything. I am here to help.”

Though his national team chapter has reached the closing point, Haddadi is fully supportive on the next pages to come for his national team.

Upon powering Iran to basketball supremacy in their region – three gold medals in FIBA Asia Cup as well as two Olympic runs – Haddadi is now passing the torch to the new basketball generation of his country as he hopes for a significant emergence once again at their side for the forthcoming years to come.

“It is time for the young generation. They need to get more time and more experience with more game-time,” he said

Haddadi added: “I want to keep playing. I love basketball. I will continue playing with clubs. But for the national team, I think it’s time for the younger generation to take over.”