Back in July, former Los Angeles Laker Slava Medvedenko sold his two championship rings in order to raise money for his native Ukraine.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss gifted him replacements on Monday.
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Medvendenko sold the rings for $253,534 with all the proceeds going to his Fly High Foundation, which focuses on repairing sports facilities that have been affected in the war.
“We want to restore gyms because the Russian army bombed more than a hundred schools,” he told The Associated Press by phone in July. “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.”
Medvedenko said he decided to sell the rings after going to the roof of one of the tallest buildings in his Kyiv neighborhood and watching rockets launched by Russian forces streak through the night sky.
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“In this moment I just decided, ‘Why do I need these rings if they’re just sitting in my safe?’” Medvedenko said. “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 was a candidate for Kyiv City Council in the 2020 election. He was 11th on the election list and his party only managed to win nine seats.
Beyond his humanitarian efforts during the war, Medvedenko has long-term goals to help his country.
“After the victory, we will definitely return to that question of quality changes in sport,” he said. “Ten years in the United States, I saw how it works. I hope I have ideal model in my mind to change Ukrainian sport.”
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Medvedenko joined the Lakers in the 2000-01 season, winning the NBA championship in that season and the following.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.