Kevin Sheppard

(CNN) -- The United States and Iran cut diplomatic
ties during the 1979 hostage crisis, and relations between the two
countries today can only be described as tense. But that didn't stop a
sharp-shooting U.S. basketball player from winding up his professional
career in the Islamic republic.

Kevin Sheppard -- a six-foot point guard who competed internationally
for 10 years after playing college ball -- was one of 13 Americans
recruited by the Iranian Super League in the fall of 2008.

He joined Iran's only non-government-sponsored team, in the cultural
center of Shiraz, mostly "out of curiosity" -- and immediately fell in
love with the country.

"Iran was beautiful," Sheppard said. "I saw something I'd never
really seen on the news, heard from people or read in the newspaper."

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