Two-Time NBA Champion Slava Medvedenko About His Experiences Since Joining War Against Russian Invaders: “It’s A Sobering Situation”

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Two-Time NBA Champion Slava Medvedenko About His Experiences Since Joining War Against Russian Invaders: “It’s A Sobering Situation”


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dramatically changed the lives of people in the Ukraine, driving many people to either flee their homes or take up arms to defend their country. One person who chose the latter is former Los Angeles Lakers Slava Medvedenko.

Medvedenko was born in the Kyiv Oblast of Ukraine and played basketball in his native country with Budivelnik Kyiv and BC Kyiv. Taking his talent to the NBA, Medvedenko went undrafted in the 1998 NBA Draft but eventually got a shot with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999-00 NBA season.

The former Ukrainian athlete spent six seasons with the Lakers where he won two championship rings before taking up his last contract in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks in 2006-07 NBA season. In his NBA career, Medvedenko averaged 5.3 points and 2.8 rebounds on 45.0% shooting from the field in 12.7 minutes of playing time.

Over a decade since last playing in the NBA, Medvedenko is now serving in military to protect his home country in the face of the Russian invasion. Talking to The Athletic, the former Lakers champion shared his experiences during war.


“You saw the tanks and everything rolling towards Kyiv,” he said, “and I just reached out to him and let them know that I’m keeping him in my thoughts and prayers. It’s a sobering situation.”

On Feb. 25, one day after the first round of bombings, Medvedenko was among 30 volunteers who gathered for an emergency planning meeting. Within a week, the group numbered 100. Another week later, it had doubled.

“In three weeks, we actually were like a police organization,” he said.

“That probably was the best decision from our president (Volodymyr Zelenskyy),” Medvedenko said. “He let everybody get weapons.”

Medvedenko watched as his neighbors rallied to become a defense unit. His wife, Elena, manned a radio.

“The people of Ukraine, they surprised me,” said Medvedenko. “I saw how they united.”

“I feel like I have to stay in Ukraine and help our country, our nation, understand ourselves,” he said. “We have to be strong. It’s the opportunity to get stronger.”

“Can you imagine?” he said. “You’re just sitting at a checkpoint and you see a big f*cking rocket just fly over you?”

On one of the first nights he sat watch, Russian forces fired more than 20 missiles trying to take out the Ukrainian radar system.

“We have almost first row in the cinema,” he said. “That was the first time I think Russians understand they cannot break our air defense system.”


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