Mirsad Türkcan was such a powerful big man that he often had to be stopped by several men. Source: Ugras Ozyurt/EB via Getty Images
Mirsad Türkcan was such a powerful big man that he often had to be stopped by several men. Source: Ugras Ozyurt/EB via Getty Images

EuroLeague’s double-double king

Basketball Dins Davids Ozols 18.05.2024

While double-doubles are a common sight in the NBA, they are much rarer in the EuroLeague. Currently, Istanbul Fenerbahce’s Nick Calathes leads active players with 45 double-doubles and only one player in EuroLeague history surpasses him: Mirsad Türkcan.

Türkcan was a double-double machine, recording 50 such games in 129 EuroLeague matchups. His career stats in the EuroLeague are impressive, averaging 11.8 points and 10 rebounds per game.

His stats remain remarkable even when compared to modern great big men. For example, Real Madrid legend Walter Tavares averages 9.4 points and 6.9 rebounds for his EuroLeague career, while Nikola Milutinov’s numbers are 7.5 points and 5.6 rebounds.

Got lost in the NBA

Standing at 206 cm, Türkcan is one of the greats of Turkish basketball. Originally from Serbia, he moved to Turkey at a young age, obtained citizenship a few years later, and changed his surname from Jahović to Türkcan.

Türkcan left Serbia in 1992 due to the Yugoslav Wars. “I came to Istanbul with a bag from Novi Pazar in 1992. At that moment, I cried with happiness when I was 15 years old. One year after my arrival, my father passed away. It was a difficult moment for me, but I endured. I had to succeed because there was no place left behind that I could go back to. I was very ambitious and worked hard,” Türkcan said.

At just 18 years old, Türkcan made his debut for what is now Istanbul Anadolu Efes and won three Turkish championships in five years with them. His performances attracted NBA interest, and the Houston Rockets selected Türkcan as the 18th pick in the 1998 draft.

Interestingly, Türkcan became the first Turk drafted into the NBA. Due to a lockout, he couldn’t play in the NBA during the 1998/99 season, so he returned to Efes and had another strong season.

When the NBA opportunity finally came the next season, Türkcan was no longer with the Rockets. He was first traded to the Philadelphia 76ers and then to the New York Knicks. He played 19 games in the NBA with the Knicks and the Milwaukee Bucks, but his role and statistics were minimal.

Türkcan believes he should have been more patient in the NBA. “I wish I had focused more on some things. When you go to the NBA, you need to go to the right team at the right time. Hidayet Türkoglu and Mehmet Okur went to the right team at the right time. I went to the Knicks, a team with the best stars of that time, and I got lost among those players,” he said.

Returning to Europe was inevitable for Türkcan, but at least he permanently etched his name in Turkish basketball history.

MVP award and becoming a club legend

When he came back, Türkcan landed in Paris, France, in January 2001. He played there for a few months before joining CSKA Moscow for the 2001/02 season.

With the Russian powerhouse, Türkcan had his best EuroLeague season, at least statistically. In 17 games, he averaged 17.6 points and 12.8 rebounds and was deservedly named the regular season MVP.

Seasons in Italy, Russia, and Turkey’s Ülkerspor followed before Türkcan joined Fenerbahce in 2006. There, he became a legend, and although he never won the EuroLeague with them, he was the first player to have his jersey retired by Fenerbahce. Only one other player has received the same honor: Ömer Onan’s number seven jersey was hung to the rafters in 2014.

Türkcan played for Fenerbahce for six seasons, and his love for the team began when he first arrived in Turkey, even though he initially joined their rivals Efes.

“Everyone has a passion in their heart. When I first came to Turkey, I saw how great Fenerbahce was. Aydin Örs also had a significant role in my sympathy for Fenerbahce. He was our coach at Efes, but he used to be a very good player for Fenerbahce. As someone who loves football very much, I started to love and support Fenerbahce. My passion was yellow and dark blue,” he said, referring to the colors of Fenerbahce and Efes respectively.

Türkcan himself believes he had a special relationship with Fenerbahce’s fans thanks to his warrior identity. “Even if I am going to lose the match, let me lose by 10 points rather than 20. It was also easy for the community I love to love me. When I played my first league match, we locked eyes with the fans. Thank God, that relationship between us lasted for years,” he said.

Türkcan ended his career in September 2012 with an exhibition match between Fenerbahce and CSKA at the Ülker Sports Arena in Istanbul in front of more than 10,000 people. After being brought off the bench to replace Kaya Peker in the first quarter, Türkcan played a few minutes and equalized the game at 6-6. Then Türkcan, who wore the number six throughout his career, was substituted out of the game, marking the end of his career.

“Last year I had an important injury and I decided to quit,” the 36-year-old said, who won four Turkish championships with Fenerbahce. “I could have played another season, but I did not want to keep on playing just for a limited time. Basketball fans remember me for my fighting spirit. I wanted to remain in their memories that way,” he said.

When he hung up his sneakers, Türkcan was the all-time rebound leader in the EuroLeague with 1,287 boards. He has since been surpassed by 14 players, with Kaunas Žalgiris’ legend Paulius Jankunas holding the top spot with 2,010 rebounds.

Türkcan has never revealed the secrets of his rebounding prowess. “This talent is God-given,” he once said. “Everyone, including NBA coaches, wondered about my secret. But it is impossible for me to explain this. I followed the ball until the last moment and tried to be the player with the most rebounds even in training.”

By the way, during his career, Türkcan formed a very close relationship with one of the best EuroLeague head coaches of recent years, Ergin Ataman. They worked together at Efes, Ülkerspor, and Montepaschi Siena. “Ergin always tried to take me wherever he went. He always trusted me,” said Türkcan, who considers the current Panathinaikos Athens coach his brother.

Helped Turkey win a historic medal

The Turkish national team has won two medals in major tournaments: at the 2010 World Championships held in Turkey, where they lost to the USA in the final, and nine years earlier, when they won silver medals at the European Championships, also held in Turkey, losing to Yugoslavia in the final.

At that European Championship, the Turkish team’s star was shooting guard Ibrahim Kutluay, but Türkcan also played a significant role in the successful tournament. He was one of the top rebounders of the competition, averaging 8.3 rebounds per game, surpassed by only five players.

During his illustrious career at both club and international levels, Türkcan won 21 titles and earned numerous personal accolades. “I achieved all my desired goals. I think it is necessary to quit when you are at the top.”

Dins Davids Ozols

Dins is a self-raised copywriter whose burning desire for punctuality and correctness of texts has combined with a lifelong passion for sports. He's on a mission to provide OlyBet.TV visitors with content on current sports events. His favorite topics include major football leagues and competitions, NBA, and UFC.