Salah Mejri has forced Rick Carlisle’s hand in recent weeks, earning a consistent spot in the rotation with effective play and effort. Mejri has always found a way to overcome adversity and transform opportunity into production on the basketball court.
Being underestimated is nothing new for Tunisian Dallas Mavericks center, Salah Mejri. Mejri did not play basketball until he was twenty years old, yet just seven years later he was the first Arabic and Tunisian player to play for European power Real Madrid. Two years later he would receive a training camp invite to play for the Dallas Mavericks.
Now, after overcoming great odds to make the team in 2015, Salah Mejri holds the distinction of being the first Tunisian NBA player. Ever since entering the league, Mejri has continued to do what he always does best: exceed others’ expectations.
Salah Mejri did not get his first meaningful chance in his rookie season with the Mavericks until their 40th game of the season against the Oklahoma City Thunder. When he finally did, Mejri was a force. The Tunisian Tower posted 17 PTS 9 REB and a block in only 25 minutes of play. Fast forward to the 2017-2018 regular season and things are more or less the same for the 3rd year center.
Without the contract, youth, high status, or “upside” of some of the other Mavericks big men, Mejri found himself on the outside looking in despite effective play in previous years. A combination of factors including foul trouble and inconsistent effort from some of the other centers earned Mejri a chance to play, six games into the season. Since then, he has been among the Mavericks most important players.
In his last six games, Mejri is averaging 5.0 PTS 6.7 REB and 2.2 BLK in 15.1 minutes a game. His 7’1″ 255 lb. frame allows him to dictate the paint while other Mavs bigs get manhandled by physical centers like DeMarcus Cousins, Joel Embiid, or Dwight Howard. He also does the best job of providing stability in the rebounding department for a team that is sorely lacking in that area.
Probably more important than any of those stats is the emotion and energy Salah brings every night. He is reminiscent of a WWE heel with his imposing frame, his menacing demeanor on the court, and his inclination for seeking out contact (What would Salah’s finisher be? I’m thinking he could pull off a Tombstone Piledriver or a Jackhammer).
His play has the ability to energize his teammates and the crowd, while his toughness gives this Mavericks team an edge that can be sorely lacking at times. There is never any question that he is giving you everything he has every time he steps onto the floor. This is invaluable leadership for a team filled with so many young prospects.
Salah Mejri is not the Mavericks’ most exciting option. He’s not their youngest option. He’s never going to be a big time scorer, or an athletic dynamo, or an All-Star nominee. Just, whatever you do, don’t doubt Mejri because the Tunisian Tower will most assuredly make it his mission to prove you wrong. That’s what makes him a great player, he has developed this mountain-sized chip on his shoulder that sparks an undying determination to succeed.
Salah Mejri will continue to find a way to surpass whatever expectations are placed on him. He always has and he always will.