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“I don’t know anything about politics. I know about basketball” — Andrei Kirilenko on the difference between playing and leading the Russian Basketball Federation

Kirilenko explained why he thinks being a player is easier than being a commissioner.
Former Utah Jazz player Andrei Kirilenko

Andrei Kirilenko

Andrei Kirilenko has retired from playing competitive basketball, but his work and focus still involve the game he grew up loving. He is currently the commissioner of the Russian Basketball Federation and admits that the transition has not been easy.

“I don’t know anything about politics. I know about basketball”

Andrei Kirilenko used to wear basketball jerseys in his workplace, but now it changed to crisp coats and ties. Being the commissioner of any national basketball federation is not easy, much less with Russia but AK47 handles things the way he conducted business on the basketball court during his younger years: with focus on things that are strictly basketball.

With the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, teams from Russia are barred from competing in some international tournaments, much to the dismay of the players who got tangled in the political mess. The former Utah Jazz utility forward believes politics and sports shouldn’t be mixed up.

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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.

He added that sports should be a uniting factor and not the cause of separation, but it is the reality they are all facing with no sure solution in the near future. “Basketball exists for us to enjoy together and that’s how it should be all around the world,” the Izhevsk native added in his interview with EuroHoops.

Difference between playing basketball and leading the Russia Basketball Federation

Of course, there are things outside his control. Still, if Andrei were asked what’s the difference between being a professional player and being tasked to lead his country’s basketball federation, he claims the difference is night and day.

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. Not only professional basketball but also at the local and school levels.

When he was still with the Utah Jazz, AK-47 played freely. He was a threat on both ends of the floor, and his skillset allowed him to contribute to scoring, defending, and creating shots for others. Now, his main focus is on creating opportunities for people in his country to compete. 

The goal remains the same: use basketball as a uniting element. But based on his attitude and character on the floor when he was still playing, the Russian Basketball Federation is in good hands with Andrei Kirilenko leading them. 

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