I enjoyed your column today about your conversation with Mrs. Kirilenko. I wanted to write in to you today to say I can empathize with Andrei, and share an anecdote of the first and only time I've met him personally. He has no idea who I am, but I bet he would remember me.
Back in January of 2002, I had been home from my mission to Vladivostok Russia for about 5 months, and was to be married in another 3. As my future wife and I are cruising through Bed Bath and Beyond registering for gifts, I hear some of the sweetest music to my ears that I had ever heard...in about 5 months. There's this really tall Russian over by the blenders asking his wife, in Russian, "What does 'shred' mean?" I tell you, the Spanish-speaking return missionaries don't know how good they have it here. Not wanting to seem totally crazy, I refrain from jumping all over the pair, and eventually work up the nerve to go talk to the guy. This is pretty much how our conversation went (in Russian):
Jim: Hello there! I hope you don't think I was eavesdropping, but I heard you speaking Russian. Where are you from?
Jim: That's awesome! I just got back from Vladivostok (insert plug for the church here)!
Jim: So, what brings you to Utah?
AK: (a little incredulous) Uh, I play basketball.
Jim: Oh, so you play for the U of U?
AK: (obviously crushed) Um, no, for the Jazz.
It was at this point that I tried to remove any fragments of foot from my mouth, and backpedal enough to explain that I didn't get any sports news while I was over there. He didn't seem comforted.
I can't be sure, but I think this was probably one of many instances that spurred AK on to greater heights and harder playing so that nothing like this conversation would ever happen again. Back to the feeling I get from your column: I think Andrei needs to have this conversation again. He's still got the talent, but $75 million will definitely change your psyche, and most especially someone who comes from a third world country. He's just a little lost, and needs to get back to his roots. Consider Rocky III, but basketball instead of boxing, and the Mr. T character in Andrei's drama is not someone else, but Andrei himself.
Please pass this on to the Kirilenko's for me, along with a hearty thanks for the alley-oop in the first part of the third quarter v. Golden State back on March 20th that I spent a better part of the second quarter calling for.
Want to know more about me? Sure you do. Visit my blog at http://www.jimcalkins.blogspot.com