Ersan Ilyasova is a fan favorite for Milwaukee…as long as he wears his shooting sleeve. The Bucks forward donned one in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Raptors while tallying 17 points (7-of-11 shooting with a pair of triples).
This prompted Twitter jokes about the sleeve being his form of the Infinity Gauntlet (watch Avengers, people). For what it’s worth, he mustered just two points in the Game 3 loss, sleeve and all.
Regardless, the 6-foot-10, 236-pounder from Turkey is another bullet on Milwaukee’s deep chamber of bench contributors. Or is he from Uzbekistan? The nature of his ethnicity and nationality has been a lingering question throughout his professional career.
Let’s look at the possibilities.
Ersan Ilysaova: Turkey or Uzbekistan?
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His Bucks bio on NBA.com states that he is from Turkey, born to parents Enver and Iraliye Ilyasova. He has played for the Turkish national team at various levels, and started his youth career in Istanbul for the Ulker Spor Kulubu youth club.
According to the Crimean News Agency in 2009, his parents still live there. Ersan rarely sees them, though they did meet in Kiev for a match between Turkey and Ukraine in 2008.
“We are proud of Ersan,” Enver said. The match in Ukraine has given us the opportunity to meet with our son. We are trying not to miss his matches and when we see him, we really want to embosom him.”
It’s with Ulker Spor that the questions began. After the club won the Turkish junior championship in 2003 with Ilyasova as the star, the Uzbekistan Basketball Federation sent a letter of protest to FIBA claiming that he was actually Uzbek. Per the Hurriyet Daily News:
According to a report in Fanatik (June 7), it was done like this. On August 7 2002 Arsen Ilyasov, born in 1984, entered Turkey on an Uzbek passport but was never heard of again. On September 19 of the same year an Eskisehir resident named Semsettin Bulut applied to his local population registry claiming that he had forgotten (!) to register the birth of his son 15 years earlier and asking for this to be done. It was.
The “son” was duly registered as Ersan Ilyasova and obtained Turkish ID papers on the basis of the registration. Also on this basis, Ulkerspor later obtained a playing licence for him from the Turkish Basketball Federation (TBF).
In addition, Radio Free Europe explains that some think that Ilyasova’s parents are Crimean Tatars, “exiled to Uzbekistan by Soviet leader Josef Stalin during World War II as part of the brutal mass population transfers of the period.” Tatars also immigrated to Turkey, according to historical research.
ESPN Draft Insider Chad Ford even referred to Ilyasova as a “17-year-old forward from Uzbekistan” during a draft profile in 2005. He was selected with the No. 36 pick in the NBA Draft that same year.
However, FIBA adjudicated that complaint leveled by the UBF, and determined the the Bucks forward would be affiliated with Turkey. The decision came because of the lack of records about the other man named Arsen Ilyasov. That doesn’t eliminate the question, but at this point, he is a Crimean Tatat who plays for Turkey.
Ersan Ilyasova Contract & Salary
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Ersan Ilyasova (15 PTS) & Malcolm Brogdon (12 PTS) pace the scoring off the @Bucks bench! #FearTheDeer
📺: @NBAonTNT pic.twitter.com/uTFQTzOX2J
— NBA (@NBA) May 18, 2019
The 32-year old is nearing the end of the first year of a 3-year, $21 million contract with the Bucks. He is set to make $7 million each year until he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2021. By that time, he will be 34 and potentially close to retirement.
He still provides a boost off the bench, averaging 6.8 points and 4.5 rebounds a game. He shoots 36 percent from behind the arc, providing enviable range for a modern NBA big.
With him starting his career in Milwaukee, and now with a chance to end it there, don’t expect Turkish Thunder to go anywhere until the end of his deal.