I grew up in a big city of St Petersburg, Russia. Some people in America have no idea about Russia and its cities but St Petesburg is a beautiful huge city with a population of 5000000 people. My family was pretty poor – my Mom was a physical trainer teacher and my father was a soccer coach in a local factory team. If you tell this to any Russian person he will know that my parents were underpaid and we have to struggle a lot. To start with we lived in a small apartment that was a long corridor with rooms and we had to share that apartment with 2 more families. It was 10 people living on 700 square feet with one toilet and a shower. This apartment was full of rats and cockroaches. It was impossible for us to afford things and I always remember that my best entertainment was always basketball. I started thinking about my game at 7 years old. Thanks God that game consumed all my life and I did not even have time to think how miserable the life of my parents and my brother could be. My parents used to fight a lot because they could not have enough money to survive. I had one pair of sports shoes for 2 years and had to sew it every week so it stayed in good shape. Sometimes my Mom took a second job trying to make more money and we barely saw her at home. When she got back from work she was so tired that could not even talk to us.
Eventually my parents had to divorce and that was really painful for my younger brother and me. At this point I felt that there is a great responsibility on me and that’s only me who now can take care of my mother and my brother. It was a very hard time for us all also because Soviet Union collapsed and both of my parents lost their jobs. That was the time I had to concentrate on myself and work out how I am going to take care of my life and the life of my family.
I decided to take sports professionally and try to succeed. I spend 24/7 in a gym thinking that one day I am going to become a great basketball player. My room was all postered with Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and the rest of NBA players. And surely I could never imagine that I will be able to play against any of them. I just concentrated on my game trying to become better and better each day. I was setting a goal that I wanted to achieve at some particular period of time (and I still do) and worked so hard that sometimes I just wanted to throw up because I was that tired. The good news was that basketball was the only thing I could really enjoy in my life and nothing else. Thanks to basketball I stayed healthy and stayed away of drugs, alcohol and bad companies. I just wanted to perfect my game and take care of my family.
I went pro at the age of 15 and was earning enough money to support both my parents and my brother. Since then my family never had to work and I am proud of it. I am blessed to be part of NBA and be a successful athlete that can now give back and enjoy being happy for other people.