Mar 29 2018

Turkish basketball player lives in airport with NBA hopes

A Turkish basketball player who played for teams including Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş has been living in Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport for months after he stopped taking his medication and became obsessed with playing in the U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA) league, independent news site Diken said.

“I want to go to the United States. I want to play basketball in San Francisco. Please, send me there,” 23-year-old Mehmet Şanlı told airport staff.

While playing for Nilufer basketball team in Bursa, he had suffered problems and been given medication, but family members said he only took it irregularly.

As his obsession grew, Şanlı went to the airport and was arrested trying to sneak through passport control. Then he was transferred to a psychiatric hospital.

The Turkish Basketball Federation gave him a stipend and the use of a house, but Şanlı got another passport issued and moved full-time to Atatürk Airport to track the planes leaving for the United States.

He now lives in the foreign departures terminal and sleeps on the benches there. Airport staff have taken it upon themselves to keep him fed.

Şanlı began in Fenerbahçe’s youth squad before moving to Beşiktaş Integral Forex. Since then he has played for a wide range of teams in the top and second tiers of Turkish basketball.