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Former St. John’s guard Omar Cook should be celebrated as he ends a long international career

For thousands of young basketball players across the country, playing in the NBA is the ultimate dream. Anything short of that can feel like a failure.

However, not everyone can make the NBA. There are only 450 roster spots, and only a small fraction of those open up each year. For players who prove good enough to play professionally while being unable to crack one of those coveted spots, international play has always been a great alternative. Playing overseas has provided countless players the opportunity to extend their careers and get paid doing something they love. No one is a better example of that than Omar Cook, the former St. John’s guard who announced his likely retirement Saturday at 40 years old.

If you’ve never heard of Cook, it’s not your fault. He’s been playing in European leagues since 2006. But make no mistake, the former McDonald’s All-American was a legend at home in New York City before his one year in college. As a freshman at St. John’s in 2000-01, he was second in the country in assists per game at 8.7 and led the team in scoring at 15.3 points per game.

However, Cook’s decision to come out of a college after that year backfired, as he waited until the second round of the 2001 draft to hear his name called. After being selected by the Orlando Magic, he bounced around the D League a few years and played just 22 NBA games before making his way to Europe.

Instead of letting that decision define him, Cook stuck with his passion and turned himself into a mainstay overseas for nearly two decades. He’ll finish his career as the Liga ACB all-time leader in assists per game — sixth all-time in total assists — and he’s top 15 all-time in EuroCup assists, according to Basketball-Reference. His NBA dream didn’t work out but he was still able to make a name for himself in basketball. And he should be celebrated for that.

Cheers to an amazing career.

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