Former Piston Mehmet Okur retires


Battles with injuries late in his career have forced Mehmet Okur to stop playing basketball.

Turkey‘s lone NBA champion, when he was a member of the Detroit Pistons in 2004, Okur has left the game at just 33 years of age.

"A player of certain level should say goodbye to the sport he loves when his body doesn’t let him to be as he used to be," Okur said in remarks carried by the Anadolu Agency.

Okur also said: "I want to thank my family, coaches, partners, and all those who have accompanied me in basketball.

"Also, a special thanks to the fans who have always supported me."

I liked Mehmet Okur from the moment the Pistons drafted him, simply because his name was cool. I remained a fan, as he grew in Detroit. Okur was a strong outside shooter and solid interior scorer, but he never got enough credit for his grit. Okur wasn’t afraid to play physically, even if that wasn’t a staple of his game.

I was bummed when Okur left the Pistons for a big-money contract with the Utah Jazz in 2004, though happy he cashed in. Practicing my GM skills, I spent hours that summer trying to find a way the Pistons could have afforded to keep Okur and Rasheed Wallace, who was also a free agent, but it just wasn’t going to work.

It’s a shame Okur came along when the Pistons’ big-men spots were filled with Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Corliss Williamson and, soon, Antonio McDyess. There was just no room for Okur then, but a couple years later, he would have been a very welcome addition.

Most of all, I’ll remember the Pistons’ triple-overtime loss to the New Jersey Nets in Game 5 of the 2004 Eastern Conference semifinals. Even as all the Nets’ big men fouled out, Pistons coach Larry Brown stubbornly refused to play Okur and exploit the advantage. I was at that game, asking everyone around me one good reason Okur couldn’t enter the game and, unlike Williamson and Darvin Ham, make New Jersey pay for missing its center.

Okur wasn’t destined to make his big splash in Detroit, no matter how much I wanted it to happen.

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