Two-time NBA champion Slava Medvedenko is auctioning his championship rings to support Ukraine in its war against Russia.
A Ukraine native, Medvedenko played seven seasons in the NBA, winning two championships alongside Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers. He joined the Lakers as an NBA rookie in 2000 to win the last two titles of a three-peat secured by the Bryant-O'Neal core.
Medvedenko, 43, lives in Kyiv. He told the Associated Press on Sunday that he decided to sell the rings while watching Russian rockets light up the night sky from a rooftop in his home city.
"In this moment I just decided, ‘Why do I need these rings if they’re just sitting in my safe?’” Medvedenko told AP. “I just recognize I can die. After that, I just say I have to sell them to show people leadership, to help my Ukrainian people to live better, to help kids.”
Medvedenko has three children aged 10 to 16. He says that he sent them to live with their grandmother in another part of Ukraine when Russia invaded in February. He's since served in Ukraine’s territorial defense, joining other prominent Ukrainian athletes like boxers Vasiliy Lomachenko and Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko in taking up arms against Russia.
He ran for a seat on Kyiv's city council in 2020, but did not win. He told AP that his family has rejoined him in Kyiv as fighting has shifted away from the city. He says that he still hears air alert sirens almost daily. He spoke with AP about his experience fighting the Russian invasion, which included carrying an AK-47.
“We were defending our neighborhood, doing checkpoints and duty patrol," Medvedenko said. "I’m not the best solider, I’m not the best shooter, but I can give them support. I shoot it a couple times, not at people. I’m happy I don’t have a chance to shoot somebody. Our army did a great job to defend Kyiv. I want to thank them.”
Medvedenko spoke from a charity basketball game he hosted in Warsaw, Poland on Sunday, with the proceeds going to Ukrainian refugees who had crossed over the border into the neighboring country. He plans to use the proceeds from the auction of his rings to rebuild sports facilities destroyed in the war.
“We want to restore gyms because the Russian army bombed more than a hundred schools,” he said. “Our country, they need a lot of money to fix the schools. Sports gyms are going to be last in the line to fix it. In Ukraine, we have winter and kids need to play inside.”
The auction is taking place from July 27-August 5 on SCP Auctions, which guarantees that 100% of the proceeds will benefit Ukraine. SCP estimated to AP that each ring would fetch more than $100,000.
Medvedenko played six seasons with the Lakers, primarily as a backup before joining the Atlanta Hawks for his final NBA season. He averaged 5.3 points and 2.8 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game for his career.