Tuesday, July 5

Medvedenko, two-time NBA champion with LA Lakers, arms himself with an AK47 in Ukraine

Slava Medvedenko, a former Ukrainian basketball player who won two NBA rings (2001 and 2002) with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant‘s Los Angeles Lakers, has taken up arms to defend his country of Ukraine from Vladimir Putin’s Russian invasion.

Medvedenko played his final NBA game 15 years ago, but now he is facing a very different challenge as he joined Ukraine’s territorial forces on February 24 with no prior military training.

The 43-year-old has found himself with a Kalashnikov protecting his family and neighbourhood from Russian invasion.

He played six seasons with the Lakers, averaging 5.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 249 games in purple and gold, and he has given an interview to The Athletic in which he explains his daily struggle to protect his family and survive the Russian Army’s invasion.

The former Lakers and Atlanta Hawks player recounts that the fighting in Kyiv intensifies at night and that on one night he saw 20 missiles fired by Russian troops in an attempt to destroy a Ukrainian radar system.

“Can you imagine, you’re sitting at a checkpoint and you see a big fucking rocket flying overhead,” Medvedenko told Bill Oram of The Athletic.

“When you’re in this process… you don’t have time to panic.

“I feel I have to be in Ukraine and help my country, my nation. We have to be strong.”

At this time of the conflict Medvedenko is focusing his efforts on helping those affected by the Russian attacks, patrolling his neighbourhood for saboteurs and aiding the creation of a charitable foundation with the aim of helping Ukrainian children and bringing food to the areas affected by the invasion.

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“We have organised a self-defence barracks in our area. Some people are working with logistics, others are taking care of public order in the streets,” he said.

“I am patrolling the city, while my wife is working in a communication centre,” Medvedenko explained to Sport Arena about his day in Kyiv during the Russian invasion.

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