The tally was clearly a remarkable one although it came with a number of caveats. Bejjeh fielded just five players, individuals who didn’t want to play because of unpaid wages but pulled on a jersey just to prevent Bejjeh from forfeiting the game and therefore their status as a top flight team. Not only that but the nation’s sporting eyes were in Manara watching Riyadi play Game 2 of the WABA League final against Mahram.
The game turned into a shootaround and Akkari racked up a score that nearly doubled the previous Lebanese league record – 61 points by Mechantaf.
Akkari, however, isn’t bothered by the circumstances and enjoys his newfound place on the webpages of ESPN and the LA Times, to name just two media outlets that have picked up his story.
“It was the best day of my whole career and I’m so happy with what I did. Everybody was shocked with what I did and everybody has congratulated me for these numbers,” Akkari told The Daily Star’s Sports Weekly.
With Akkari’s 113-point game having three or four days to ferment over the Internet, two memes have cropped up between two very different set of fans.
Most of the coverage has been centered in America where little is known of Lebanese basketball. Therefore pundits aren’t to know that Akkari has spent most of his career as a three-point specialist off the bench; that he averaged just 7.6 points per game before Tuesday; that the opposition team weren’t trying; and that Akkari has never even played for the Lebanese national team.
The scoreline led several pundits to believe that Akkari could potentially take on a role with an NBA team. Even respected platforms like the Bleacher Report floated such speculation. Akkari himself, however, is aware of what an overblown statement that is.
“It’s too far, they say it maybe because they are happy with my score but I’m with Tripoli and [the suggestion] is too far,” the player said. “No [I’m not getting carried away], everybody has a dream to play in the NBA but you have to be fair.”
Contrary to reports in the U.S., Akkari didn’t play high-school basketball in America. Photos allegedly depicting him in the uniform of BYU in Hawaii that made it onto syndicated networks were in fact of his brother.
Opinion in the U.S. has, however, also questioned whether Akkari’s accomplishment is an achievement at all considering he executed the feat in a relatively small league.
In Lebanon, fan reaction hasn’t been so positive and has been very sensitive to the derogatory tones in the blogosphere.
Countless people have aired their frustration that Akkari’s 113-point game has made Lebanese basketball a laughing stock. Many believe that while the game put Lebanese basketball in the spotlight, it has fostered negative opinion about a league that so many have worked hard to legitimize.
The general feeling is that the only thing Akkari managed to do was prove that the Lebanese league was “Garbage,” to quote Opinionation in a YouTube rant.
While most of the abuse is directed at Bejjeh for feeding Akkari points and at the federation for allowing them to it, Akkari is something of an innocent party in the middle. He does, however, have no regrets and treats all opinions with the same indifference.
“I have to respect both [kinds of reactions], it’s not about me putting Lebanese basketball on the map, it’s on the map already, maybe it could be a turning point because the amount of points I scored.
“If I hadn’t scored 113 points, no one would have talked about the game. I know the game [it was a bit of a joke] but at the end you see the amount of shots I took and the amount of points I scored. I was looking at the percentage I made, which I do whether the game is a hard one or an easy one.”
Back to reality this weekend when Mouttahed Tripoli face a much sterner test against third-place Anibal Zahle, Akkari is aware that all eyes will be on him and that expectations will have moved to unreachable highs.
“I am searching to play more minutes, there is more responsibility on me now, I have to keep my standard up.
“I let everybody know than I can play good [basketball] and now I have the responsibility on the court, every time I shoot everyone will be looking at it. That’s a responsibility I want.”
Opinion may be divided on Akkari’s achievement but it is a testament to the viral nature of the Internet that a tire worker in Tripoli can be an international sensation overnight. Before Tuesday, not even many Lebanese basketball fans knew who he was, now he is in newspapers across the world.
“I work with my father ... on Bridgestone tires, Akkari Trading. I will go as far as I can, either in basketball [or] in business.”