Michael Brandy, Deseret News
TAYLORSVILLE By the hundreds, they sported red and green clothes and face paint, waved their country's flags and posters, and stomped, clapped, chanted and cheered for their nation's best players.
They even brought a kazoo-like horn that continually blared on to the surprise of some all game long.
The FIBA Asian champions didn't beat the Jazz, but give the Iranian national team and its supporters credit. They filled the Salt Lake Community College's gym with an electric and party-like atmosphere during Utah's 82-57 Rocky Mountain Revue victory.
If Tehran needs a sister city in the U.S., Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might consider Taylorsville. His country's basketball squad, which wrapped up its brief Utah stay Monday night, is obviously welcome here.
Iran standout Samad Nikkah-Bahrami, who topped all scorers with 23 points, would have expected a warm reception like that in a metropolis like Los Angeles. But having that feverish of a fan following in Salt Lake City caught him pleasantly off guard.
"We didn't know that much crowd would come see our games because we're in this city (and) there are not that many Iranians," he said. "They really touch us and we were very happy because they protected us tonight."
The host NBA franchise also provided a touching tribute for the Iranians, particularly Nikkah-Bahrami. At halftime of the Olympic-bound squad's final Revue game, Randy Rigby escorted the Iran guard and his mother to center court. The Jazz president then presented them with an official team jersey.
The Jazz jersey number was eight. It wasn't a Deron Williams' jersey, though. The name on the back read: Nikkah-Bahrami in honor of the current player's brother, Idin, who was the country's best basketball player before getting killed in a car accident last December.
Deeply touched, Samad took the Jazz gift and returned the favor by presenting the organization with a trophy from Iran's team. His mother, Farzaneh Ebrahimi, put her hands to her face and then brought them up to wave at the crowd while smiling.
Nikkah-Bahrami said they will mount the jersey on the wall of his brother's house alongside his other hoops memorabilia. He was very "grateful" for the Jazz's gesture.
"For me it's great," he said. "Whenever we talk about my brother, whenever somebody reminds him, whenever they talk about him, I'm happy, because I think about him very much. I don't want nobody to forget him."
Ebrahimi told Rigby that the presentation "was one of the happiest days of her life."
"It was a very special moment for her family," Rigby said.
He was among the many who seemed to soak in the whole night from the raucous crowd, to the incessant kazoo honker to the tender thought, and, oh yeah, maybe even the basketball game.
"It was wonderful. It was the greatest experience," Rigby said. "They brought a great crowd. They were into it. They were blowing horns all game and cheering. It's been a lot of fun. I think it's fun for our fans to see the passion the Iranians have for their team and basketball."
Guard Morris Almond hinted that the Jazz could have gone with a little less kazooing some attendees might have woken up in the middle of the night hearing its tones and reaching for the snooze button but he definitely appreciated the ambiance.
"It was an experience," Almond said. "The crowd definitely made it a vibrant atmosphere, but once we kind of settled down we played our basketball game."
Almond joked that he predicted the kazoo player was "gonna give out by halftime." That might have been wishful thinking, he added, because "he didn't give out, though, so that's a credit to them and their enthusiasm."
- Former Cougar star Jackson Emery shares...
- Dick Harmon: Are we spending too much money...
- BYU basketball: Breaking down UMass, Cougars'...
- Cougars in the pros: Austin Collie re-signs...
- Breaking down UMass, BYU basketball's next...
- BYU football: Cougars have gotten solid...
- BYU's linebacker Kyle Van Noy engaged to Miss...
- Local NFL watch: How Utah players fared in...
- Mike Sorensen: Despite disappointing... 192
- Utah basketball: Runnin' Utes come up... 102
- College football re-rankings: Where do... 60
- Unbeaten Utes hit the road for the... 58
- Sources: Former BYU quarterback Steve... 50
- Dick Harmon: Are we spending too much... 48
- BYU basketball: 3 players record... 47
- Dick Harmon: USC taps BYU experience... 44