“11 seconds in the shot clock, game 7 of the Finals, he gets fouled… and knocks down two of the biggest free throws in Lakers history. No Laker fan will ever forget that.” True and true.
Remember early this season, at the opening game at Staples? The Lakers did that fancy and heartfelt ring ceremony where each player introduced the next one. It was fitting that Pau Gasol said those words preparing the Staples audience for the appearance of Sasha Vujacic, about the only other guy left from Europe still playing for the team. At the 2008-09 training camp, the team roster was bristling with international talent, but by 2010-11 a Serbian (Vladimir Radmanovic), a Congolese (DJ Mbenga) and a Chinese (Sun Yue) had been let go by the Lakers.
Pau and Sasha became good friends as soon as Spaniard joined the team. The plane from Memphis still warm, Gasol was already looking to move to Redondo Beach, the same neighborhood where Vujacic lived, not far from girlfriend-in-the-making Maria Sharapova. Vujacic was still hot when Pau arrived, having clocked recently his best season as a Laker, where he averaged career highs in minutes (17.8) and points (8.8). “The Machine” was known for his passionate defense, lightning quick release from downtown (maybe only Ray Allen can let it fly quicker than Sasha in the NBA) and of course, his gorgeous hair.
Drafted by the Lakers with the 27th overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, Vujacic is the son of a Slovenian basketball coach and debuted professionally in Italy when he was only 16 years old. He also won a Silver medal as a member of the Slovenian team at the 2002 European Junior Championship.
Next: Rise, Fall and Rebirth