As you’ve probably noticed by now, foreign NBA players are a lot more open with foreign media. Whether it be Hedo Turkoglu begging out of Toronto or Darko Milicic swearing all of the swears in Serbian, there’s a long and storied history of this sort of thing. It makes sense. Why wouldn’t they be more forthright and accessible in their native languages?

Andrei Kirilenko is no different. In a wide-ranging interview with Sports.ru, a Russian sports site, Kirilenko answered questions about pretty much everything you can imagine. Some of the answers, as I’m sure you’re guessing, were really something. For instance, here’s how he compared European players to American players.

A Russian man has been traditionally notable for his great physical power (that is to say, the muscles). Without muscles you have no place in modern basketball, especially if you are a center. But compared to the Americans we look quite feeble. Why is is so? (НерпЪ)

– We look quite feeble, I agree. But looking at the training of a guy who starts playing in college and continues his career in the league, you can’t imagine how much time they spend in gyms in America. A hundred times more than we do. People don’t only play basketball, but also work out regularly, whole programs are developed there. We lag behind in this regard, we try to play more with our talent, we want to prevail with tactics, approach, ‘intelligent’ basketball, I’d say. In America it’s purely one-on-one game – you have to be stronger, faster, jump better. It’s also the nature that favors black players making them physically stronger than we are – that is a scientifically proven fact.

Aside from that very weird part where Kirilenko says that it’s a scientifically proven fact that nature makes black players stronger than Russian (super yikes), this makes a bunch of sense. Weightlifting is a huge deal in the United States, while it’s not that important overseas. That’s where that whole “Europeans are soft” nonsense originates, I’m guessing.

Here he is talking about endorsing sausages. (Yes, this interview is weird.)

What’s the most unexpected thing you had to advertise?

In Russia I was offered to advertise some kind of sausages or wieners. And leather jackets, by the way. Some friends of mine offered it, I refused politely. When you advertise something, you get associated with this product. I didn’t want to be associated with a leather jacket. Actually, I still like wieners very much, but I just didn’t want to go out and shout: “Eat Moscow wieners!” and “Meat factory Number 5!”

Not sure which we should put on Andrei Kirilenko’s tombstone: “Actually, I still like wieners very much,” or “Eat Moscow wieners!” Either one is a good choice. Also, I’m 12.

Kirilenko’s thoughts on American sports are also pretty spot-on.

During the time you spent in America, did you develop a liking for any local sport? Baseball or, maybe, American football?

I never watch baseball, but I sometimes turn on American football, sometimes you can come across some interesting matches. I watch it because the players there are so athletic, it’s an unforgettable show when such big guys run into each other at full speed. The rules are very complicated, but it reminds me of rugby. I don’t watch all the games, only the most exciting play-off matches. And the Super Bowl, of course.

Andrei Kirilenko hates baseball but watches football because it’s awesome to see huge guys crashing in to each other at speeds that shouldn’t be possible for people that big. That’s why football is the biggest sport in the States. Seems he’s caught on pretty well after a decade overseas. Nice to have you, bro.

Last, but certainly not least, here’s Andrei on his gigantic back tattoo.

Your tattoo from World of Warcraft has raised a furor…

It’s not a tattoo from WoW, it’s just this game was a revelation for me, it was something I had been looking for a long time. So you can’t say I’ve got myself a paladin tattoo. It’s just a person who inspired me and the game became the thing in which I wanted to express myself long ago. It has given me… ‘inspiration’ [Kirilenko says this word in English – Sports.ru]… How do you say it in Russian?

‘Vdokhnovenie’.

No, it’s the wrong word. Let it be impetus. The game has given me an impetus. And speaking about the tattoo I just wanted to make myself a gift for my 30th birthday. I have never regretted it since. Until this age I never thought I would ever get myself a tattoo. But now I felt I was ripe for that. I didn’t want a small picture, being afraid it won’t be visible enough. I have a friend whom I know since school and long ago we agreed that if we make a tattoo that would only be together. So he arrived to America specially for this purpose and also got himself a tattoo. On his shoulder, though.

How did your children react when they saw your back ornamented for the first time?

They were astonished and just went bananas with joy. “Daddy, that’s awesome!” They were just happy. But in general I don’t care about anybody’s criticism. Seven or eight years ago I learnt not to pay attention to what they write about me, I don’t monitor it on purpose. Sometimes my friends come to my place and start telling me – with their eyes wide open – that something horrible was written about me somewhere. I always have the same answer: let them write what they will.

That tattoo, the one that covers his entire back and is completely terrifying, was Andrei Kirilenko’s first tattoo. Not something smallish on his shoulder or leg, because he was worried people wouldn’t be able to see it. No, he got a full back tattoo, which looks to be visible from a distance of several hundred yards. Even better, his kids love it. Easing in to things is for chumps.

As you can see, this is a very great interview. Kirilenko seems totally relaxed and willing to answer any question honestly, even if it means he comes off sounding like Jimmy the Greek. He talks about still having motivation to play, wanting to return to Utah, how playing alongside gay athletes is no big deal and that he has no idea what planking is. All in all, a great read.

(via SLC Dunk)

Comments (1)

  1. best line from this interview in my opinion.

    “Did Mikhail Prokhorov seek advice from you when he was going to buy the New Jersey Nets?

    Absolutely not. He is a grown-up man, he loves basketball, and doesn’t need my advice.”

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