A late-comer at 43 years of age to Phnom Penh’s emerging competitive basketball scene, Ken Gadaffi instantly caught the eye as a man tower with Extra Joss Fighters. That was five years ago.
His massive build and reach was a source of strength for his side and an intimidating sight for his rivals.
Though he lost no opportunity to venture out and find baskets, his role as a stout defender will always be a standout in his time on the court.
Gadaffi decided to call it quits last Sunday with a heavy heart after his side lost the CCC Summer Tournament in a thrilling decider to Master Steak. A magnificent second game fightback came to naught as his side lost by a single point in the decider.
Gadaffi wanted to go out on a high. If not at least break the hoodoo of losing four straight finals.
His wish was not granted. But he wouldn’t go back on his vow to retire, bringing an end to his five-year stint. As one fellow player put it, when Gadaffi was on court, you couldn’t miss him – he towered over all.
“I have to end it now to allow the younger ones to continue. I am glad to see how Cambodian basketball has evolved over the last five years since we started the first Cambodian Basketball League [CBL] in 2013.”
“Club basketball has grown. Young talent has started to bloom."
“I was 43 when we started the first CBL. I played to inspire the younger ones then,” Gadaffi said.
“My son was just 14 then, and now he and other players in their 20s can continue to play and raise the standard of Cambodian basketball."
“I will still be involved in the game. I will focus on organising commercial basketball because of the lack of corporate sponsorship affecting the development of the game.”
As an adviser of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia and marketing manager for the CBF, there are possible conflicts of interests as a player for Extra Joss Fighters which prevented Gadaffi from being part of the organisers.
Gadaffi’s greatest regret from his playing days will undoubtedly be not winning a title from the five finals he played in. But perhaps he can look back to the 1960s at Elgin “Rabbit” Baylor, who failed to win a single title out of eight NBA finals, but who was an 11-time All-Star and is considered one of the greatest players of all time.