For Enes Kanter, the past seven years have been a whirlwind.
Since moving to the United States in 2009, settling in Simi Valley, Calif., for high school and heading out on a basketball journey that included stops in Lexington, Salt Lake City and finally Oklahoma City, Kanter has embraced American culture and taken the NBA by storm, not only by his play, but his willingness to make fun of anyone, at any time, through any social media platform.
Kanter, who didn't play a single second of college basketball, parlayed his potential into being the third pick of the 2011 NBA draft and a four-year, $70 million deal with the Thunder in 2015. He averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds last season, primarily coming off the bench and playing all 82 games for the first time in his career.
The high-energy Kanter recently sat down with The Crossover and opined about his NBA journey, what he needs to improve during this upcoming season, and how he became the league’s resident comedian and social media troll.
Scooby Axson: What is the difference between Simi Valley, Lexington, Salt Lake City and Oklahoma City?
Enes Kanter: When I look back... when I think about Simi Valley and Lexington and kind of like Salt Lake, too. I remember not playing basketball. I couldn't play in high school. No college. Then I get drafted. And then they say, ‘Oh, there is a lockout’ in 2011. So I couldn't play. Also, when I think about all those places, it's pretty quiet, but with amazing fans. All of them have really amazing fans, especially Kentucky.
SA: How disappointed were you about last season’s playoff run?
EK: It was definitely frustrating because I remember after the game, I looked and a lot of people were crying in the locker room. And you went that far and we knew that we were the better team and we played harder. But it's a seven-game series. We will always remember that it's a seven-game series.
SA: Did you watch the NBA Finals?
EK: I didn't watch the Finals. I asked a couple of the guys, and they said they didn't watch any Finals either. I watch some highlights and stuff, but when I look back it just feels horrible.
SA: What job would you pursue if you weren’t a ball player?
EK: I wouldn't play any sport. I would be an astronaut. It's a little weird. I still want to go to space. I was interested in space because it's amazing. I was going to try to be an astronaut. I was just watching something on space while I was getting treatment, so it was actually really interesting to me always. But I got too tall and so I became a basketball player.
SA: What historical figure, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with?
EK: I need to think about that one. (Turns around to see if the Thunder PR are listening to the interview.) Probably Trump. Can I say that? Yeah, I would ask him, ‘What's wrong with you, man?’ Yeah, probably Trump to try to see what's his problem.
SA: What is a typical day like in the life of Enes Kanter?
EK: In the morning, wake up. Come to practice, and we'll lift. And then I hang out with the guys in the locker room a little bit. And then after we're done in the regular season, most of the time, I do something with charity work. It was really important for me to be with the community in OKC and give back.
SA: Do you wake up in the morning just to troll people on social media?
EK: No....well, yeah. It just comes out naturally because I follow the news a lot. Like basketball, non-basketball stuff, politics and everything. So when I hear or see something it's just natural, it just comes to my mind.
SA: Who are your biggest social media targets?
EK: Anybody. It can be KG or KD or Russ or Tim Duncan. It's fun, you know. I'm seeing all of this, and read the fans reaction. It's just that I am having fun. Some people are hating it, of course. But everybody won't love you and you can’t make everybody love you. I'm just having fun, you know. I'm 24 years old. I'm involved in social media or whatever. And it's just cool, man.
SA: What is strangest thing you have seen in Oklahoma City?
EK: I don’t see anything negative here, but I will say the one thing that’s nice is the OKC fans are really respectful. I mean, I'm going to Wal-Mart or I'm going somewhere to shop or whatever. They are scared to come up and ask me for an autograph, don't want to bother me. So they're really respectful and sometimes I'm asking them, ‘Hey do you want a picture?’
SA: Any favorite things you like about American culture?
EK: I like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have been here in America since 2009, so I'm getting to know a lot of the American culture, American food and everything. It's really interesting and really fun.
SA: What American food do you crave?
EK: When I thought about America, I was always thinking about burgers and fries and that's what I would order in Turkey. So when I came here I remember my first meal in America was a burger. Not like a McDonald's burger, but a real burger. I loved it. It was really good. So my favorite American meal is a burger.
SA: Could you describe yourself in five words?
EK: Fun. Hard working. I know that's two words, but… Also a locker room guy. And I like to be in the community and live for others.
SA: Do you set any personal goals for this season?
EK: I just try to be better than I was last year, because I was doing one thing last year. Now I'm trying to accomplish more stuff like (playing strong) defense.
SA: Your defense has been questioned. Have you committed yourself to defense?
EK: So I'm focused first on defense, because when I was growing up I was always asked to be the go-to guy or I would just say, ‘just give me the ball.’ It was just clear. At times I would joke around like that. One thing I think the playoffs taught me is if you want to win a championship, if you want to go that far, you cannot do it without defense, you can't be selfish.
SA: Who is the goofiest person on the team?
EK: Probably (Thunder center Steven Adams). Yep. Steven. Steven. Steven.
SA: What do you think of the "mustache brothers?"
EK: If me and Steven do anything together it will be fun.
SA: Any similarities between you and Adams?
EK: We have the same personality. He loves to have fun just like me, he loves to give back to the community and all of the charity stuff. But as soon as he steps on the court he changes into a different person. He is just focused and he doesn't care about nothing but winning.
SA: Where do you want to be five years from now?
EK: When I look back I want people to say, he wasn't just a one-way player. I want them to say, yeah, he was OK on offense but at the same time, he was trying to do his best. You can't always be perfect, but in five years I want to be known for something different. My plan is to be a two-way player. That's the most important thing.
SA: What would it mean for you personally to win a championship?
EK: Winning a championship here in Oklahoma City would mean everything, because it would be with a bunch of amazing guys. It would mean a lot to me. I think that's what we are living for. Everyone is trying to take care of their body and trying to stay alive just for a championship.
After the interview, one of his teammates yells from across the practice court. “Oh, I see, you are big time now.” It may be only a matter of time before he is a household name, but until then enjoy the big smile, the laughter and the trolling.