Hassan Whiteside's story is one of the true rags to riches tales in the NBA. After plying his trade in China, Lebanon and the Development League along with training at the YMCA, he has found a home in Miami.
The 26-year-old burst onto the scene unexpectedly last season and has improved on his statistics from the previous campaign as the Miami Heat prepare themselves for a return to the playoffs.
Despite losing his spot in the starting five, Whiteside is part of a strong rotation at the American Airlines Arena that is one of the main reasons the Heat find themselves in such a promising position.
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In a recent interview with the Palm Beach Post, the former Sacramento Kings draftee compared his career to that of Sylvester Stallone's famous Hollywood film series 'Rocky'. The 33rd pick in 2010 was asked whether he ever envisioned his career reaching its current point during his days in the lower reaches of the basketball world.
He said: “I kinda hoped it’d be like this, but I never thought they’d be talking about the free agency numbers and all that stuff like they are. That all happened really quick. The preparation took so long, but my time here has been quick.
"When you’ve been training like Rocky, when it’s finally time to fight the Russian, you ready. When I got my Heat contract, it was time to fight the Russian.”
He was certainly ready to fight the Russian. After joining the Heat, he averaged a double-double season in his 48 games, producing 11.8 points and 10 rebounds per night go to with his 2.7 blocks.
This season he has been a blocking machine as he leads the league in that category with 3.7 a game along with 14.1 points and 11.7 rebounds. Such has been his incredible ability to reject shots that he has record three triple-doubles with blocks in 2015-16.
His first of the season was 22 points, 14 rebounds and 10 rejections in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in November. He recorded 11 against the Denver Nuggets in January to go with his 19 points and 17 rebounds.
Whiteside also ended a game against the Charlotte Hornets in February with 10 blocks, points and rebounds. Having recorded another triple-double of that kind in his first season in Miami, it puts his career tally at four.
Given his history in the game, it is pretty astounding that the man from North Carolina who has played for the Sichuan Blue Whales, Al Mouttahed Tripoli and Jiangsu Tongxi, just to name a few, is now being talked about in the same conversation as Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Dream's nine triple-doubles with at least ten blocks is an NBA record while Mutombo is tied for second. With Whiteside in the height of his powers, there is every chance he could eclipse the two legends.