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Former Los Angeles Lakers Player Slava Medvedenko is selling two of his NBA championship rings to raise money for his native Ukraine.
Medvedenko was a power forward on the Lakers’ championship teams in 2001 and 2002, playing alongside Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
SCP Auctions is donating the entire final price of both rings to the Medvedenko Fly High Foundation. Its goal is to support Ukrainian children by restoring the sports infrastructure of schools in the war-torn country and launching a network of social sports clubs.
“We want to restore the gyms because the Russian army has bombed over a hundred schools,” he told the Associated Press by phone on Sunday. “Our country needs a lot of money to renovate schools. Gyms will be the last in line for renovations. We have winter in Ukraine and children need to play indoors.”
The auction runs from Wednesday to August. 5. California-based Laguna Niguel estimates that both rings will fetch at least $100,000.
Medvedenko said he decided to sell the rings after he climbed to the roof of one of the tallest buildings in his Kiev region and saw rockets fired by Russian troops streak across the night sky.
“At that moment, I just decided: “Why do I need these rings if they just lie in my safe?” Medvedenko said. “I just accept that I could die. After that, I just say that I have to sell them to show people leadership, to help my Ukrainian people live better, to help children.”
Medvedenko spoke from Warsaw, Poland, where he hosted a sold-out charity basketball game to raise money for Ukrainian refugees who crossed the border to escape the war.
“In Ukraine, you just feel like it’s war, missiles, air raids. You are so used to this kind of pressure,” he said. “Once you cross the border and you see people living normal lives, it’s a different world.”
The 43-year-old man is married with two daughters, aged 16 and 11, and a 10-year-old son. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Medvedenko sends his children to their grandmother in another part of the country.
“After they stayed for a month and a half, they called me all the time and asked: “Daddy, can we come home? We want to be with you and mom, ”he recalled.
Five months after the start of the war, Medvedenko reunited his family in Kyiv.
“We have air alerts almost every day. Sometimes three or four times a day,” he said. “Kids are so used to it. They play in our backyard. They don’t even stop playing, they’re used to it.”
Medvedenko served in Territorial Defense Troops of Ukraine during the war.
“We defended our area, made checkpoints and patrolled. I am not the best soldier, I am not the best shooter, but I can support them,” he said, adding that he has an AK-47. “I shot a couple of times, but not at people. I’m happy that I don’t have the opportunity to shoot someone. Our army has done a great job of protecting Kyiv. I want to thank them.”
Medvedenko was a candidate for the Kyiv City Council in the 2020 elections. He was 11th on the electoral list, and his party only managed to win nine seats.
In addition to humanitarian work during the war, Medvedenko has long-term goals to help his country.
“After the victory, we will definitely return to the issue of qualitative changes in sports,” he said. “Ten years in the United States, I’ve seen it work. I hope I have an ideal model in my head that will change Ukrainian sport.”
Medvedenko joined the Lakers in the 2000-01 season. His best season was in 2003-04 when he started 38 games for injured Hall of Famer Karl Malone and averaged 8.3 points and 5.0 rebounds. Later, injuries slowed him down and Medvedenko was traded to Atlanta Hawks in 2006–07, his last season in the league.
Medvedenko said he was corresponding with former Lakers Mark Madsen and Luke Walton. The team sent sports equipment for use in Ukraine.
“The Lakers family is always helping me,” he said. The Lakers will always be in my heart.”