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30th Nov 2021

NBA star changes name to ‘Enes Kanter Freedom’ celebrating US citizenship

He is not the first NBA star to legally change his name

Professional basketball player Enes Kanter has legally changed his name to Enes Kanter Freedom in celebration of becoming a US citizen.

The Swiss-born and Turkish-raised centre released a video on social media of his citizenship ceremony on Monday (29 November), where he recited the oath using his new name.

The Boston Celtics player has previously condemned human rights violations in China and Turkey, resulting in him having his Turkish passport revoked by authorities in 2017.

Speaking to CNN, Kanter Freedom said that the name change will reflect his “fight” for freedom throughout his life.

“Here [in the US] there is freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press,” he said. “I didn’t have any of those with Turkey.”

The 29-year-old also stated that “freedom is the greatest thing a human being can have”.

He added: “That’s why I wanted to make that word a part of me, and carry it wherever I go.”

During the ceremony, the judge addressed him by his new name, with Kanter Freedom himself using it to swear his oath of allegiance to the United States.

He also waved a miniature flag in the air after the oath, saying: “Freedom – that’s it” while signing his naturalisation document.

Since arriving in the US in 2009, the third pick in the 2011 NBA draft has heavily criticised his native Turkey and, more recently, China.

The former Portland Trailblazer man had his name blocked on Chinese social media sites, while streams of Celtics games were reportedly cancelled after he referred to President Xi Jinping as a “brutal dictator”.

“My message for the Chinese government is free Tibet,” he told his social media followers. “Tibet belongs to Tibetans.”

Kanter Freedom – who is an 11-year NBA veteran – also repeatedly referred to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a “dictator”.

This led to Turkish authorities filing an international arrest warrant for Kanter Freedom, accusing him of having links with groups involved in a failed 2016 coup – allegations which he denied.

The name ‘Enes Kanter Freedom’ will be on the player’s shirt when the Celtics host the Philadelphia 76ers later this week.

Kanter Freedom is not the first NBA player to legally change his name, with a number of other stars having changed theirs over the years.

In 2011, Ron Artest changed his name to ‘Metta World Peace’ in hope to “inspire and bring youth together all around the world”.

Prior to that, Lew Alcindor had changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for religious reasons in 1971 – confirming the change the day after the Bucks won the NBA title.

Brian Williams changed his name to Bison Dele in 1998, doing so to “honour his Cherokee and African heritage”.

A host of other NBA players have also changed their names, including:

  • Jamaal Wilkes (Keith Wilkes) in 1975 for religious reasons.
  • World B. Free (Lloyd B. Free) in 1981 as it was his high school nickname.

  • Hakeem Olajuwon (Akeem Olajuwon) in 1991 because he wanted to ‘correct, not change’ spelling of his name.

  • Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (Chris Jackson) in 1993 for religious reasons.

  • Jeff Ayres (Jeff Pendergraph) in 2013 to change from his stepfather’s surname to biological father’s surname.

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