LOS ANGELES — The former Los Angeles Lakers player, Slava Medvedenkois selling his two NBA championship rings to raise funds for Ukraine.
Medvedenko, 43, 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 full final sale price of both rings to Medvedenko’s Fly High Foundation. Its goal is to support Ukrainian children by restoring the sports infrastructure in schools in the war-torn country and launching a network of social sports clubs.
“We want to restore the gymnasiums because the Russian army bombed more than a hundred schools,” he told The Associated Press by phone on Sunday. “Our country needs a lot of money to fix schools. Sports gyms will be the last to fix it. In Ukraine, we have winter, and children need to play inside.”
The auction will take place from Wednesday until August 5. The Laguna Niguel, California-based company estimates that both rings will raise at least $100,000.
Medvedenko said he decided to sell the rings after climbing to the roof of one of the tallest buildings in his Kyiv neighborhood and seeing rockets launched by Russian forces streaking through the night sky.
“At that point I just decided, ‘Why do I need these rings if they’re just in my safe?'” Medvedenko said. “I have to sell them to show people leadership, to help my Ukrainian people live better, to help children.”
Medvedenko was speaking from Warsaw, Poland, where he organized a sold-out charity basketball game to raise funds for Ukrainian refugees who crossed the border to escape war.
“In Ukraine, you feel like it’s war, rockets, air alerts. You’re so used to that kind of pressure,” he said. “As soon as you cross the border and see how people are living normal lives, it’s a different world.”
Medvedenko is married with two daughters, ages 16 and 11, and a 10-year-old son. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Medvedenko sent his children to live with his grandmother in another part of the country.
“After staying for a month and a half, they would call me all the time and say, ‘Dad, can we come home? We want to be with you and Mom,'” she recalled.
Five months after the war, Medvedenko has reunited with his family in Kyiv.
“We have air alerts almost every day. Sometimes it’s three or four times a day,” he said. “The kids are so used to it. They play in our backyard. They don’t even stop playing, they’re used to it.”
Medvedenko has served in the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces during the war. Beyond his wartime humanitarian efforts, Medvedenko has long-term goals to help his country.
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Former Laker to auction off rings to donate to his native Ukraine