Tuesday, October 1, 2013
#47 should go up there....
Andrei Kirilenko. For many Jazz fans he was an enigma, 6'9" tall with a 7'4" wingspan, great athleticism, speed, ball skills and passing ability. All the attributes could have and should have made "AK 47" one of the greatest Jazz men of all time. But for many, he falls short of that lofty accolade.
I remember the summer that Andrei came to the United States and played for the Utah Jazz's summer league team in the Rocky Mountain Review. I remember seeing and extremely skinny, blonde haired player with his shorts pulled up too high. I remember saying to a friend of mine "someone needs to tell him to pull his shorts down." Then the game started....wow the shorts and the visual image that Andrei presented was far from the player that he was. I was amazed at his ball handling for such a long lanky player. He moved with such fluidity. But most impressive was his athletic ability. I had not seen a European player move and jump the way he could. This was something new, something we had not seen from the other side of the pond.
As a player, Andrei continued to develop. His first 2 years in the league he had the opportunity to learn from Hall of Famers, John Stockton and Karl Malone. In 2003 Stockton retired and Malone signed with the LA Lakers. The team was now Andrei's, and he flourished. The team ended up with a much better record than expected and Kirilenko benefited greatly from this.
Andrei signed a max deal with the Utah Jazz and I feel that is where his down fall came. People expected a person getting paid that kind of money to take them to the Conference Finals every year. They expected multiple All-Star appearance. Things that unfortunately Andrei only delivered once.
I don't blame AK for his contract, his injuries or his short comings. As a fan, I knew when he stepped on the court he was going to give it all he had. He did not take plays off. He played with grit and toughness. He wanted to win! He was one of only a handful of players to ever have a 5x5 (5 points, rebounds, blocks, steals and assists) For his career, he averaged 14 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 2.3 blocks.
Those numbers and the precedence he set as a European player and the first European player for the Jazz, in my opinion, should put him in the rafters at Energy Solutions Arena. So when the day comes that AK decides to hang them up, I hope the Jazz organization can look back at his contributions and give him that honor.