For those of a particular vintage, the CBS TV series “The White Shadow” (1978-1981) was arguably a superior, urban/basketball “Friday Night Lights” for its period (albeit much, much funnier). While the series’ lasting influence on American sports culture seems to be limited to reruns on The YES Network and cast reunions on Jim Rome’s unlistenable radio show, the New York Times’ Pete Thamel reports exploits of Thorpe, Coolidge, Salami, Gomez and equipment manager Abner Goldstein proved infectious to the TV-starved nation of Turkey.
œIt made people aware of basketball in Turkey, said Alper Yilmaz, a former national team player who works in the front office of Efes Pilsen, a club in Istanbul that has won 13 Turkish League titles since its founding in 1976.
œThere was already basketball in Turkey, Yilmaz added, œbut after that show, everyone started playing.
When œThe White Shadow was first shown in Turkey, the country had one TV channel, Turkish Radio Television. With little competition, the series, which was dubbed, acquired a huge following.
Aydin Ors, considered one of Turkey™s greatest coaches, said the impact could be felt in youth basketball ” mini basket, as it is known here ” and carried all the way to the national team.
œTo see an indoor sport, people didn™t know a lot about indoor sports until that time, Ors said. œThis show started to bring basketball into people™s lives every week.
Cihangir Sonat, who played for Turkey™s national team from 1969 to 1981, recalled referees™ telling players before a Turkish League game not to argue calls so they could get home in time to watch the show.
Yigiter Ulug, a part-time professor in sports communications at Bahcesehir University, recalled that as an 18-year-old he begged his coach to change the team™s practice time because it interfered with the show.
œWe had guys on our team that we called the names of the guys in the series, Ulug said. œIt was a strange thing for a Turkish guy to be called Salami.