I realize a story about Pacers Kyrylo Fesenko is completely obscure at this point as we head into the NBA playoffs. But sometimes that’s the point and what we love when reading NBA related stories on the new sports website ‘The Classical’. In a post called “NBA Nonsense Notebook” by Michael Katz, he describes some random stories you won’t see on the front page of ESPN, but are entertaining nonetheless.
We thought we would share this excerpt about Pacers 7’1″ big man Kyrylo Fesenko coming from the Ukraine and getting to meet his childhood idol Shaquille O’Neal for the first time. Shaq just assumed Fesenko was a really tall fan at that point, not realizing he would one day be guarding him in the NBA:
When it Fesenko turned into an NBA prospect, he came to the U.S. to workout for the NBA Draft, and he happened to be auditioning for the Pistons when the Heat were in Detroit. Fesenko got tickets to the game, and made sure he was close enough to catch Shaq’s attention.
“I was just, ‘Can I have a picture with you?’ He was very nice,” Fesenko said. “He crossed the line like, I cannot cross one of the lines and he was like ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ So he came to me, took a picture. It was awesome.
“I uploaded it to the Internet right away, like, let my friends see it,” he said. “And well, it was pretty cool when somebody who knows me, like they knew how much I wanted to take a picture with Shaq. They’re like, well Fez, you’re example show me that if you work hard the dream comes true.”
Shaq might have picked up that he was making a kid’s day, but he had no idea that kid was a future NBA player.
But the story doesn’t end there obviously. Kyrylo Fesenko ended up making it to the NBA and cracked the rotation in Utah. So you can imagine his excitement when the Jazz were set to play against Shaquille O’Neal’s Cleveland Cavaliers a short time later….
“I played against him first time for, I spent 50 seconds on the court, actually 50 seconds against Shaq,” he said. “So, at one point he was posting me up and I was thinking ‘Oh, I got him. I got him.’ And I pictured myself, you know, blocking him. You know, I pictured myself being on the front page of all newspapers and everything. I was already so hyped, like I was thinking how I’m going to tell it to my friends. And then he dunked on me.”
Demoralizing, right? Not at all.
“When you first time meet your hero—if you ever meet your hero—you will definitely remember it,” he said. “I was still thinking about like, ‘Did somebody get a picture of that?’”
Most players by the time they land in the NBA would be worried about their reputations, for fear of landing on the front page of newspapers as the latest victim of the Diesel. But not Fesenko, he was just happy to share some poster space with his childhood idol Shaq. Gotta love the NBA, and the obscure stories that accompany it to keep us entertained.