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Kirilenko says to do utmost for Russian basketball development as he turns 35

February 18, 21:53 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Famous ex-basketballer called it a day in his successful basketball career in June of 2015 and two months later he was elected the president of Russia’s governing body of basketball
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President of the Russian Basketball Federation (RBF) Andrei Kirilenko

President of the Russian Basketball Federation (RBF) Andrei Kirilenko

© Sergey Fadeichev/TASS Archive

MOSCOW, February 18. /TASS/. Famous ex-basketballer and President of the Russian Basketball Federation (RBF) Andrei Kirilenko is celebrating his 35th birthday on Thursday and since having wrapped up with his career as a player days he intends to give his utmost to the development of basketball in Russia.

Kirilenko called it a day in his successful basketball career in June of 2015 and two months later he was elected the president of Russia’s governing body of basketball.

"It is impossible to be a successful professional player if you are not devoting it all of your time round the clock," Kirilenko said in an interview with TASS. "This is the exact case with my current occupation - it does not require physical training but requires strength and patience, which I do contribute."

The former Russian and American basketball player took the helm at the Russian governing body of basketball at the times, when the organization was riddled with management scandals as well as debts and the national teams plunged to poor performances at international level.

"It turned out that I changed my professional occupation," Kirilenko said. "But since my physical abilities are no longer of help to the [development of the] Russian basketball, I hope that my mental abilities will do the job."

Kirilenko began his professional basketball career at the age of 15 and in 1999 the talented player was drafted by NBA’s Utah Jazz becoming the first Russian ever selected in the first round of a draft. He also became the youngest European to be drafted by a club in NBA at the age of 18.

However, he played the next two seasons for titled CSKA Moscow basketball club, which he joined in 1998 under a three-year contract, and began playing overseas for Utah Jazz only in 2001.

During his next 11 years playing for Utah Jazz, Kirilenko reached his career high in the season of 2003-2004, when club’s leaders John Stockton retired and Carl Malone left for LA Lakers. During that season Kirilenko recorded an average of 16.5 points per game.

He left Utah Jazz in 2011 and returned back to Russia reuniting with his CSKA Moscow club and played there until the following year. In 2012, Kirilenko once again took to the courts of NBA arenas, first playing for Minnesota Timberwolves (2012-2013) and then for Brooklyn Nets 2013-2014.

In all, Kirilenko played a total of 797 games throughout his NBA career showing an average record of 2.7 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 11.8 points per game.

In his third and final return to CSKA, Kirilenko signed a contract with the club for the remainder of the 2014-2015 season on February 24, 2015.

Having Kirilenko for the second half of the season CSKA roamed into the Euroleague’s Final Four, but although deemed by many experts as favorites to win the title, the Moscow club lost in the semifinal to titled Greek club Olympiacos. In over 11 games playing for CSKA in Euroleague that season, Kirilenko averaged 8.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

The 2014-2015 season for CSKA as well as for Kirilenko ended with the champions title of Russia’s VTB United League after the club won the final series against Khimki with the 3-0 games score. On June 23, 2015 Kirilenko announced his retirement.

Besides the professional career, Kirilenko was the player of the Russian national team since 2000, when he debuted with the country’s squad at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney. As part of the national team he played at five FIBA EuroBaskets, including the one in 2007, which the Russian team won and Kirilenko was named the MVP of the tournament.

Kirilenko also played for the country’s team at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in China’s Beijing, where he was the Russian Olympic team’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the Games.

Playing in NBA, he was nicknamed "AK-47," because of his name’s initials and his jersey’s number 47. Coincidentally, Kirilenko was born in the Russian city of Izhevsk, where the world’s most-known Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle was developed in 1940s by Mikhail Kalashnikov.

Kirilenko is married to Masha Lopatova, a daughter of Russian basketball player Andrei Lopatov, and he is the father to three sons and a daughter. In 2011, Kirilenko and his spouse were both granted American citizenship.

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