Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, many famous sports stars took up arms to defend their homeland. That includes former Los Angeles Lakers center Slava Medvedenko.
Medvedenko went undrafted in 1998 before joining the Lakers a couple of years later. He spent six seasons with the Purple and Gold, averaging 5.4 points and 2.9 rebounds — and winning two NBA titles along the way. The 6-foot-10 center called time on his career in 2007, after one season with the Atlanta Hawks.
But 15 years later, Medvedenko’s retirement has been disrupted by the brutal war in Eastern Europe. The 43-year-old joined hundreds of his neighbors to create one of Kyiv’s volunteer territorial defense groups after Russia attacked Ukraine on Feb. 24.
According to The Athletic’s Bill Oram, the former Lakers big man is also selling most of the memorabilia he collected during his career to fundraise money for the Ukrainian army — including the two championship rings Medvedenko won with the Purple and Gold, and which L.A. promised to replace:
Medvedenko is doing everything he can to support the Ukrainian army, which for a former NBA star has included auctioning off virtually all memorabilia from his playing days. He said he has already sold T-shirts, jerseys, and sneakers. Next up: His championship rings, a process for which he has sought assistance from the Lakers.
The organization has offered to help however it can, including preparing a shipment of sports gear to send to Ukraine. In an email, Lakers executive Linda Rambis told Medvedenko that if he sold his rings, the team would replace them.
“I’m proud that we’re an organization that our former players know when they need help that somebody will answer their call,” Buss said.
Medvedenko grew close to Lakers superstars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal during his time with the team. And, the former Ukrainian center has said he would like to invite O’Neal to visit him in his homeland.
Russia has retreated from central and northern Ukraine — where Kyiv is located — since the start of the war, although it still fires missiles at targets scattered across the country.
Medvedenko is now focusing on helping Ukrainian children deal with the trauma caused by the war and ensuring they have sports gear for when the next school year begins in September.
Former Laker Reggie Bullock named recipient of 2022 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Award
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Carmelo Anthony was the first recipient of the award and collected it from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar himself at the end of the 2021-22 season.
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