Out of all the journeys to the NBA I've heard of, Jursuf Nurkic's ranks up there as one of the most unusual.
Nurkic has come into his own after being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers this past season, exploding onto the scene with a 28 point, 20 rebound, 8 assist, 6 block performance against the 76ers early in March after not having much of a role with the Denver Nuggets. Considering the way he began playing basketball, his stellar play towards the end of the season is even more impressive.
You see, Nurkic was only 14 before he was introduced to the sport of basketball, which to be honest, isn't that uncommon nowadays in the NBA, with many international prospects starting the game at a late age and picking it up quite easily (Joel Embiid is a prime example of this). But it's the way Jusuf got into basketball which is the real kicker to this story.
The story goes that basketball scouts in Europe actually heard of Jusuf's father, Hariz Nurkic first. Hariz worked as a police officer in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and reportedly stands at 7 feet tall and weighs over 400 pounds. Even by cop standards, that is a mountain of a man.
Hariz was apparently involved in a fight with 14 individuals and beat every single one of them. It made headlines in Bosnia, and just as luck would have it, a Bosnian sports agent, Enes Trnovcevic happened to read the story, and was intrigued. Via a Jusuf Nurkic fan page:
"Jusuf Nurkic's dad is a policeman in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. One day a Bosnian sports agent Enes Trnovcevic was reading a newspaper where he read: "Bosnian policeman, Hariz Nurkic has beaten 14 people in a fight." He knew what to do instantly! Next day he went to Tuzla and met with Nurkic's father. The only thing he asked him was: "Do you have a son?" Jusuf Nurkic was at that time a 14 years old boy and never trained basketball. Enes Trnovcevic took him to Slovenia and gave him an opportunity he accepted and used."
Now, this story may sound very far-fetched and is probably exaggerated, but I'm not going to be the guy who puts his hand up and questions the validity of a 400-pound man beating up 14 men in case I become the 15th. Nurkic himself as even confirmed some parts of the story himself, via Slam:
My father is a 7-foot tall, 400-pound police officer in Bosnia—don’t mess with him [laughs]. He tried to play basketball but they couldn’t find shoes for him. He’s a size 22. My agent saw him and went up to ask him if he had any kids and my dad said, ‘Yeah, I have one and he’s giving me trouble because I can’t find shoes for him.’ From the first day I met my agent, he told me I was going to be an NBA player and I thought, What’s wrong with this dude? I haven’t even practiced yet [laughs].
So there you have it. If you do happen to come across Jusuf Nurkic's father on the street (and you'll know if you do, he's impossible to miss), be very careful as to not make him angry, or you could be the 15th star in tomorrow's news headlines.