If you are not born in a particular country, but you desire to become a citizen of that country, naturalization is the best way to go about it.
There are many reasons people choose to naturalize from one country to another. It could be for better job opportunities, getting voting rights, improved immigration benefits, the list is endless. Although naturalization is not an easy process, for some, it could be, especially when you are a high profile NBA star.
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Enes Kanter and Other NBA Players Who Naturalized to Become US Citizens
Recently, it was announced that Boston Celtic’s Enes Canter has naturalized to become a US citizen. While this is great news, Kanter is not the first NBA player to naturalize and become US citizens in recent times. This article gives you a rundown of five (5) other NBA stars who had naturalized to the US just like him. Find out more about them below:
Sometime towards the end of November, on a Monday morning, Enes Kanter, NBA Star of Swiss origin and Turkish-raised, took to his Twitter page to tweet, “I am proud to be American. The greatest nation in the world.” Of course, this declaration of nationality piqued the interest of NBA fans and so many others, leading to the addition of “Freedom” to his name to signify his new identity. To Kanter, this new name means a new beginning, a fresh start, and the ability to express himself freely without feeling targeted by the government or losing his home. Almost every chyron in Euro news broadcasted the news.
For a while, Enes Kanter has experienced issues with the Turkish government dating as far back as 2017. This issue has also led to his Turkish passport being revoked by the Turkish government. Kanter’s move to naturalize to the US as a result of some of the challenges he had faced over the years, especially with the Turkish government. He is known to be an open critic of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and of course, now America has welcomed him with open arms.
In 2020, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services confirmed through Twitter that Tristan Thompson, the Canadian-born basketball player, has fulfilled all the requirements to naturalize as a US citizen. In an interview, Tristan Thompson said, “I came to the US on a Student’s visa and have always had big dreams. I’m now truly living the American dream”. While the reason for naturalization for some sad NBA players could be challenges they face from home countries, for Tristan, it seems more of a dream that has been attained.
In 2012, Dirk Nowitzki first hinted to the press that he might be applying for US citizenship. In 2019, the German NBA star who has played in many NBA games pointed out that his green card was being processed, where he stated in an interview saying, “we’re in the process of getting a green card’’. Reports in the press suggest that the NBA professional player has gotten his green card which has officially put him on the track to fully becoming an American citizen.
Although his story dates back to the 1990s, Olajuwon is one of the NBA stars who first naturalized to become a citizen of the United States of America. Olajuwon’s basketball career began in the 1980s, but to return to play international basketball competitions, he had to first get his US citizenship which he got in 1993. Olajuwon’s case was a unique one because he had played for his home country, Nigeria before naturalizing to the US. Yet, this did not hinder him from joining the US basketball team after naturalizing. In an interview, he states, “when I became a U.S citizen, there were some people in Nigeria who criticized me. But I’ve been here for over ten years, and my home is in Houston, and a lot of my family is in the United States. It was just natural. I’m still a Nigerian, and I’m proud of it, but I’m a U.S citizen.”
Josh Okogie is a Nigerian-born NBA player who emigrated to the United States, where he got his second nationality. After getting his US citizenship, Josh Okogie took to Twitter to say, “Where are my dual Citizen followers at?” Josh Okogie is one of the top NBA players drafted to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2018 and participated in the 2018 NBA Summer League, including the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. In 2019, Josh Okogie was named a member of the World Team for the 2019 Rising Stars Challenge.
Ben Simmons has dual citizenship from both Australia and America. For Ben Simmons, his dual citizenship is due to his parent’s origin. With one parent from the United States, this has equally helped him gain US citizenship. Originally, NBA star Ben Simmons, the rookie of the year 2017-18 winner, is from Australia.
Naturalization in the United States is not an easy process, but for most NBA players, naturalization comes easier due to their status. Regardless of how anyone got it, being an American citizen is a big deal, and we can only wish Enes ‘Freedom’ Kanter all the best on his new status.