With the NBA season getting underway later this month, Russia’s best basketball player Andrey Kirilenko, who currently plays for CSKA Moscow, has a decision to make – should he stay, or should he go.
In 1999, Kirilenko became not only the first Russian to be picked in the first round of the NBA draft, but also the youngest European player to be selected.
In 2001, he joined Utah Jazz and remained faithful to the Salt Lake team for a full 10 years before becoming a free agent and moving back to European powerhouse CSKA Moscow.
2011 saw the revival of Russia’s Red Army club, in large part thanks to the experienced NBA forward. Now, following a successful spell at home, Kirilenko is uncertain if he wants to go back to the NBA.
“I’m definitely looking at the offers,” he told RT. “When I signed the deal with CSKA, I knew that I was going to be leaving in the middle of the season. But when it comes to this point, it’s always tough to leave the team in the middle of the season. You know, we have great chemistry and that’s making it way tougher to make a decision.”
Six-time Euroleague champions CSKA Moscow are now well on their way to their seventh continental title.
Andrey Kirilenko has been instrumental in the current campaign and was even named the most valuable player of the tournament in October.
Needless to say, AK-47 is a regular on the national squad, where he helped the team become European champions in 2007.
His impressive performance earned him the prestigious flag-bearing honor at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, as well as a visit to the Kremlin ahead of the Games.
And if Russia finishes in the top three at the wildcard tournament next July, Kirilenko could make a third bid for Olympic gold.
“Our last Eurobasket showed a lot of promise,” Kirilenko said. “We’re playing a lot better as a team. The young guys stepped up to feel those roles and take more responsibility right now. So I’m looking forward to seeing them next year, playing in the qualification tournament for the Olympics.”
AK-47 is very active when it comes to promoting the game of basketball, especially in Russia.
Thousands of kids turned up to see him and fellow NBA star Dwight Howard at an event in Moscow last summer.
The player stood for hours just signing autographs for anyone that asked, becoming a true champion of the people in the process.