Wael Arakji – Basketball Brilliance

Meet the Best Player for the Year 2023 in Asia.

Wael Arakji – Basketball Brilliance
Omaia Jallad

Wael Arakji (Instagram), the 29-year-old Lebanese basketball sensation, has taken the sports world by storm with his remarkable talent and leadership. His standout performances at the 2023 Men’s Basketball World Cup, securing victories for Lebanon, showcased his exceptional skills. Arakji also played a pivotal role in his club’s – Al Riyadi’s – success in the West Asia Super League. He was also named as the Best Player for the Year 2023 in Asia, a testament to his growing influence and stellar contributions to the sport. Arakji’s journey continues to inspire fans globally, solidifying his status as a rising star in the basketball scene.

Wael Arakji

Welcome, Wael Arakji. Could you share your earliest memory of the sport and the moment that sparked your interest, ultimately leading to your start in playing professionally?

I have played basketball ever since I was a little boy… aged four or five. I have loved the game ever since I can remember, and I was lucky that my parents spotted my passion and talent at an early age and enrolled me in a basketball academy. Although I wasn’t tall, and actually started gaining height at the age of 15, I was always very much into basketball, and wouldn’t miss one training or practice. But I must say that Harlem [the academy] and Al Riyadi had a massive role to play in my growth as a basketball player, and so have the coaches that never stopped pushing me.

Wael Arakji

How do you maintain consistency and adapt your playing style for different competitions and teams, both internationally and with Al Riyadi?

Whether on an international level or with a specific team like Al Riyadi, it requires a combination of versatility, strategic awareness, and effective communication, like establishing strong team chemistry to enhance coordination and cohesion on the court, and being flexible and receptive to the coaching staff’s guidance and, most importantly, to develop a mental resilience to adapt to situations quickly and not get too emotional depending on how the game is going… but where it has to go. The challenges to being part of a Lebanese team aren’t from the nationality itself, but by the lack of support and commitment from the Lebanese authorities and government. As players, and with the support and love of Lebanese communities around the world, we are surrounded, protected and loved. As players, and as Lebanese communities and the diaspora, we make sure we are close to each other and want to reach the same goal. This is why I was emotional this year, and even cried in the post-game interview against France. We are doing our best, we want the flag to be on the highest podium, we want the anthem to be on the loudspeakers in the final game, but what “tries” to slow us down is from within… and this is what, sadly, it comes down to sometimes when playing for Lebanon…

Wael Arakji

Securing victories against Ivory Coast and Iran in the 2023 World Cup was a major achievement. Can you briefly share the emotions of representing Lebanon on the global stage?

In my case it was always challenging because most of the time I was the point guard to players that were 8,10, 15 years older than me, so I had to show a strong and confident character. Otherwise no one would take me seriously.


As a point guard, leadership is integral to your role on the team. How do you foster a sense of unity and motivation within your team, both at the national and club levels?

My job as a point guard is to make sure everyone is aligned and things are going as planned. It’s always easier to lead when we all have the same goal and with time and experience your maturity grows and dealing with different players and characters gets easier and smoother.

Wael Arakji

As a professional basketball player with a demanding schedule, how do you unwind during a chill afternoon?

Usually afternoons are all for practice and training… Unwinding comes usually on Sunday (when there are no games scheduled). I love playing video games and am very competitive at it, too! Spending time with my family, watching a series with my wife, quality time with friends…

Wael Arakji

Reflecting on your journey, from playing in the NBA Summer League to achieving success in Asia, what lessons have you learned that you would share with aspiring young basketball players?

To all young athletes, my advice is to be confident and believe in your abilities and capabilities. Every injury is a lesson, and every setback has an amazing comeback, don’t let anything or anyone stop you.


These votes and awards always hit differently. They are voted for by the fans, the basketball world, the passionate ones watching… And it is not limited to Lebanon or Al Riyadi fans, it is beyond the club, or the country, or the region… It can’t get better than being voted Asia’s Most Valuable Player… or also being voted Asia’s Player of the Year! It is a massive responsibility, yet a very humbling one as well. It is not only for me, but for everyone who has helped me get to where I am now, whether it is by supporting me or by challenging me, or by standing in my way! They all contributed to where I am now… so yes, it is a thank you to all, the ones that support me, and also to the ones that don’t!

For someone just starting out in basketball, what advice would you offer to help them navigate the challenges and to pursue a successful career?

Remember that success in basketball, like any career, is a gradual process. Stay dedicated, stay focused, and enjoy the journey as you work towards achieving your basketball goals. Be coachable, and build mental toughness… and if this is mixed with talent and skills, you have a slam dunk combination! So enjoy the journey!

For more stories of culture and remarkable people from across the MENA region, like Wael Arakji, visit our arts and culture archives.