As NBA players look into the possibility of playing overseas, they're starting to learn more about foreign cultures. Playing in Turkey or Greece may seem nice when they field salary offers, but the reality could be less pleasant. For instance, did you know that satyrs and centaurs no longer roam around Greece? You learn new things about foreign lands every day!
Sometimes, though, the weirdness of an unknown country goes well beyond new food and confusing exchange rates. Because apparently coaches in Turkey sacrifice goats. From Rick Reilly on ESPN.com (via PBT):
It was about when one of his coaches chopped the head off a young goat for good luck that Jimmy Baron realized pro basketball in Turkey was unlike any hoops he'd ever played.
He was playing for Mercin of the Turkish Basketball League, the same league superstar NBA guard Deron Williams has agreed to play in during the lockout. They'd lost their first four games of the season and rumor was, if things didn't get better soon, heads were going to roll.
"The coach didn't speak any English," says Baron, a 3-point specialist from the University of Rhode Island. "But he motioned me to come out in front of the arena with the whole team. He put us in a circle and there's this goat standing there. All of a sudden one of the assistant coaches gets out this huge machete. And then -- whack! -- he cuts the goat's head off!"
The Turkish players immediately stuck their fingers in the blood of the neck and wiped it on their foreheads.
"Then they started motioning for me to do it," Baron remembers. "I'm like, 'You gotta be crazy!' And I got the heck out of there."
This story only sounds weird if you didn't know that Steve Smith once sacrificed a chicken in the Portland Trail Blazers locker room in 2000. Don't worry, he's not a pagan. He just wanted to fit in with his teammates.
In truth, Baron's tale is not especially representative of Turkey -- former UCLA star Josh Shipp later says that he was pelted with batteries after a game-winning shot, and that seems more accurate than daily blood sacrifices. But vaguely xenophobic stories can still be instructive, and Baron's encounter with a machete can be used for good. There really is a lot that players have to learn about foreign countries before they play for them. And while Deron Williams won't be treated the same as a role player like Baron, he's still going to run into some bizarre stuff every so often. He'll gladly take a paycheck, but it may not be the most comfortable experience of his life.
Or, who knows, maybe Deron's really into this sort of thing. We've never heard much about his personal life, have we?