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Slava Medvedenko Defending Ukraine from Russia; Wants to Sell Lakers Rings to Help

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVMay 23, 2022

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Former Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks center Slava Medvedenko has been serving in Ukraine's territorial defense forces in Kyiv during Russia's invasion of his home country. 

The 43-year-old told Bill Oram of The Athletic that he's hoping to sell the two championship rings he earned with the Lakers as Shaquille O'Neal's backup to help with the war effort.

Oram wrote: "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," Lakers governor Jeanie Buss said.

Medvedenko is stationed in Kyiv with the Volunteer Formation No. 29 of the 128th Separate Battalion. In the early days of the invasion, rockets blasted overhead and he "dug holes for anti-tank mines and trained to fire RPGs" while serving as part of the military's police force. 

"Can you imagine?" Medvedenko told Oram. "You're just sitting at a checkpoint and you see a big f--king rocket just fly over you?"

The fighting in Kyiv has slowed down as Russia's invasion focuses on more eastern parts of Ukraine. The former Laker is prioritizing relief efforts such as delivering food to parts of the country that were occupied by Russian forces or organizing charitable organizations for Ukraine's youth, including hosting basketball camps.

He's also hoping to invite O'Neal to Ukraine. 

Medvedenko played seven NBA seasons for the Lakers (2000-01 to 2005-06) and Hawks (2006-07), averaging 5.3 points and 2.8 rebounds. Buss described him as "an ultimate role player."

"You say, 'OK, that matches the character of who that person is,'" she said about learning he chose to stay and fight in Kyiv. "And playing basketball isn't life and death, but it is a reflection of who we are and what we bring."

For Ukraine, Medvedenko is trying to bring any assistance he can.

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