Andrei Kirilenko: “Everyone is an expert in viruses and politics”
By Johnny Askounis/ email@example.com
The person in charge of Russian basketball, Andrei Kirilenko was not kind to those he considers mix basketball with politics.
Kirilenko, 41, discussed multiple topics with Mozzart Sport, ranging from his duties as the president of the Russian Basketball Federation to signing a contract with Partizan as a youngster.
Serbian teams Partizan NIS and Mega MIS were welcomed in the 2022 VTB League Super Cup, competing against CSKA, UNICS, Zenit, and Lokomotiv Kuban for the Alexander Gomelsky Cup in Moscow. With Russian outfits excluded from continental and international competitions, the ongoing tournament is a rare sign of foreign teams in the country.
“I understand the situation,” mentioned Kirilenko referring to the ongoing war in Ukraine, the result of the invasion of Russia, “I am sure players don’t follow politics nor are interested in politics. But nowadays everyone is an expert. We are all experts in viruses and the next day in politics. I don’t know anything about politics. I know about basketball. That’s where I can help.”
“I talk about basketball and play sports because I am convinced I understand how things work,” he added, “Sports should be uniting people, not separating. Basketball exists for us to enjoy together and that’s how it should be all around the world.”
Looking back at his legendary playing career, he was quick to admit the simplicity of those days compared to his current job. “It’s easier to be a basketball player. Of course, you work hard every day and keep ready. It’s demanding. Now, running basketball in Russia, I think about a million things. I try to organize everything and ensure a steady flow aiming to improve basketball. Not only professional basketball but also at the local and school levels,” he explained.
Revealing an unknown part of his early days as a player, he recalled inking a contract with Partizan. In 2001, he instead moved his talents to the NBA to start the lengthy run at the Utah Jazz.
“I signed the contract but it had an NBA option,” he said opening the interview, “How would I look in the black and white jersey? We will never know. I will always be grateful that such a club was interested in me when I was really young.”
Kirilenko, nicknamed AK-47, also answered a question about Dejan Bodiroga being named Euroleague Basketball president.
“He is familiar with the problems, among the few people with an understanding of both sides. He knows what FIBA wants, as well as EuroLeague,” he shared his confidence in Bodiroga’s qualities, “I believe both sides have compelling arguments. It’s now up to Dejan to bring them together looking to take basketball in the right direction. I think he can do it.”