Kobe of the Arab world

Caption: Mohammad Bin Khatam, 20-year-old Emirati basketball player in Al-Wasl Sports Club, will join the NBA in 2021.

By Nourhan Samra

“Stop trying, focus on getting a real job.” This is a sentence that almost every aspiring player has heard every time they thought of pursuing a full-time career in basketball. In Mohammad Bin Khatam’s case, every time he was injured or failed to live up to a specific goal, he felt defeated. 

Kobe did not know what his passion was as a child, but his mother created one for him. He described his journey to success as a “rough but effort-worthy” road. He was able to achieve his desired goal not only through skill, but also through patience. Pursuing your passion may seem like an easy road to take on, but in reality, it requires hard work – as it did with Kobe.

Kobe’s Journey with Basketball

Not Kobe Bryant, but Mohammad Bin Khatam. That is what his friends have been calling him ever since he was a little kid, Kobe. Kobe has been playing for Al-Wasl Sports Club in the United Arab Emirates ever since he was seven. Consequently, he travelled all around the world, including Serbia and the United States of America, to train and push himself closer to his dream of becoming the first NBA player from the UAE. After graduating from high school, Kobe travelled to Chicago to practice ball at Chicago Basketball Academy. Alongside his training, he was working on improving his linguistic skills and studying English at DePaul University. After spending a year and a half in the U.S., Kobe finally secured a place in college basketball in New Mexico State.

Kobe’s Dreams Lost  

After getting into college basketball, Kobe decided to move to New Mexico State. In the process of moving, he sold most of his furniture and temporarily had nothing to sleep on in his new apartment. On her first visit, his mother walked in on her son sleeping on a mattress on the ground with no furniture, and immediately flew him back to the UAE with her. Once in the UAE, and as his flight date to the U.S. approached, his mother reassured him that she was working on and finalizing his visa. 

A few days before he was supposed to fly, Kobe asked his mother about his visa only to find out that she had purposely never worked on it; he was forced to stay. He said, “All my long years of practice and dreams to become an NBA player were lost in seconds.” Kobe then re-enrolled into Al-Wasl’s basketball team, and also joined a local university’s basketball team after earning a scholarship. 

“It was disappointing, but you bet this was not the end of the story for me,” he said. 

Kobe continued I his attempts to attract the NBA’s attention, hoping he would be accepted. 

The Only Time Your Health Does Not Matter 

For Kobe, ball came first, and health came last. Kobe said he barely played any games without having to bandage up his entire body because of extra-practice injuries. He said he plays basketball for “eighteen rough hours per week, no breaks.” These hours do not include his additional practice hours at university, which take place five times a week.

“It is not easy, but I cannot stop. I think about basketball every day, every hour if you like, it is my passion. For the love of the game, I cannot stop,” he added.  

Pressure & Desire to Quit

Long hours of criticism, physical and mental pressure, are all reasons why any human being would quit. Kobe quit basketball twice, once for a whole year, and once for six months. It took a lot to get his “head back into the game” when he decided to start again. Kobe continues to play in Al-Wasl, participating in games, practices, local championships and international challenges. 

He was achieving many things even when he felt like he was not, and he felt that because what he was achieving was not the NBA. His passion motivated him to travel to Serbia for a three-week long solo training, where he acquired the skill of dribbling two basketballs simultaneously while slowly jogging. These little things and small lessons are what kept him going and made him feel like he was moving even if it was only a small step. 

What is Next

After years of hard work, failure, disappointment, success, lost hopes and betrayed dreams, Kobe recently achieved eligibility to be drafted into the NBA and is now fit to live his dream in 2021. He said, “This is my work, my dream. I have done it for myself, but most importantly, I have done it for my mother. After all, she is the one who pushed me into basketball at seven. When I did not know a thing, she was creating Kobe of the Middle East.”