It’s been floating around the web for about a week now, but if you haven’t already seen it, here’s a trailer for the NBA TV Canada special, “The Jonas Valanciunas Story.” I dare you to try and contain yourself while watching this as a Raptors fan.
A few things stood out to me in the 67-second preview. First, Valanciunas stating that basketball is like a “second religion” in Lithuania. I know we can’t compare or translate European league performances into NBA projections (though I will always believe putting up numbers playing pro ball in Europe is more impressive than doing it in the NCAA), but in terms of passion and appreciation for the game, you could make the argument that no place on earth compares to Lithuania. First of all, the average European sports crowd makes North American fanatics look like amateurs. Second of all, as big as ball is in the U.S. and Canada, it is nowhere near being the top sport in either country, while it is a clear No. 1 in Lithuania.
The second soundbite that resonated with me was Jonas’ claim that as he got older, he realized that “basketball is my life.” Talent and character should always be at the top of the list in terms of scouting potential pro talent, but an often under-appreciated aspect of excelling at the professional level in sports is actually loving what you do, not just loving the money, fame and power that comes along with it. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Valanciunas’ passion for the game or his desire to play at the highest level.
The lasting image for me is the last thing we see on the screen, the words “coming soon” standing alone over a black screen. While it’s purpose is to promote the actual TV special as coming soon, I like the double meaning that can be played with Valanciunas’ actual arrival in Toronto. It’s very similar to the “the future is coming” look we saw at the end of the Raptors’ “Behind the Draft” special.
One of the things I’m really looking forward to in the latter stages of the season and off-season (aside from the lottery, draft and free agency) is how the team markets and promotes Valanciunas’ impending arrival. The fact we have had to wait a year for him has resulted in an enhanced hype and obsession around Jonas, and has created a sort of aura that makes his eventual landing in Toronto and suiting up for the Raptors must-see events. It’s not often the organization has a golden marketing opportunity like this. Let’s hope they can come up with some creative and intriguing ways to get people even more excited (if that’s possible) about the Lithuanian Deity known as Jonas Valanciunas.