Medhat Warda, 63, is among eight former players selected to the Hall of Fame alongside Janeth Arcain (Brazil), Margo Dydek (Poland - posthumously), Atanas Golomeev (Bulgaria), Alonzo Mourning (United States), Fabricio Oberto (Argentina), Jose “Piculin” Ortiz (Puerto Rico) and Jiri Zidek (Czech Republic). Joining them are coaches Natalia Hejkova (Slovak Republic), Bogdan Tanjevic (Montenegro) and Mou Zuoyun (China - posthumously). The names were selected from a shortlist of more than 150 candidates.
Warda, a point guard, left a legacy in Egyptian basketball as he carried his club and country to some of their biggest triumphs both domestically and internationally.
A native of Alexandria, Warda came very late to basketball. His father introduced him to swimming instead of the usual football which most of his friends were playing. His swimming talent was clear from the beginning and he competed at the highest level, winning Egyptian swimming championships three straight years from 1966 to 1968. Warda also played some water polo.
It wasn’t until 1970, when he was 15 years old, that Warda discovered a love for basketball. He was in the stands at the FIBA AfroBasket in Alexandria and watched the semi-finals as Egypt -- playing under its former name the United Arab Republic — beat Tunisia.
“I liked the performance of (former Egyptian great) Adel Sharaf a lot, so that night I decided to start playing basketball,” Warda said.
After leaving the water, Warda was a quick study on the hardwood. He joined Al Ittihad club of Alexandria and started playing professionally at 17. He debuted with Egypt’s senior national team at 18.
In 1975, when he was 19, Warda helped Egypt to their next AfroBasket title. This time though he was playing on the court in his home city of Alexandria. He also helped turn Al Ittihad into a powerhouse in Egyptian club basketball, guiding the team to six straight titles from 1982 to 1987.
Warda also led Egypt to success internationally. They finished third at the 1979 Mediterranean Games and took second at the 1981 AfroBasket. Two years later, Warda returned to Alexandria with the Egyptian national team and once again captured the AfroBasket crown in 1983 - the 1975 and 1983 titles being the last two continental trophies Egypt hoisted. In total, Warda reached the AfroBasket podium six times, finishing second in 1981 and 1987 and taking third place in 1978 and 1985.
Warda also twice played at the Olympics, appearing as a 21-year-old at the Montreal Games in 1976. He averaged 11.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.0 steals at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles at 28.
In Los Angeles he picked up 26 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists against Brazil and collected six points, five rebounds and 10 assists against Australia.
Warda, who helped Egypt to Arab Nations Championship crowns in 1974 and 1987, was also African Player of the Year in 1984. He also was an eight-time Egyptian Player of the Year.
While Warda retired from basketball in 1987, his surname continues on in the sports world. His son Amr Warda is an Egyptian national team football player who plays in Greece.
The 2019 class will be enshrined into FIBA’s Hall of Fame during a special ceremony in Beijing on 30 August on the eve of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup tip-off.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 29 August, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly