After a short break, we being you another edition of the Hoop Diary Jersey Countdown. The lockout is still upon us and we hope this little ray of sunshine will help tide you over as we select our all-time greatest ABA/NBA player to wear the number 47. There are more choices available than you may have thought but let’s get straight to the action.
Enjoy our selection for Hoop Diary’s all-time greatest number 47.
With the 24th pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz selected Russia’s Andrei Kirilenko to join their team. The pick had come from Orlando in a deal three years prior, which had sent Felton Spencer to the Magic. It wasn’t until the 2001/02 season that Kirilenko made his NBA debut for Utah at home against the Milwaukee Bucks. Kirilenko played 16 minutes and accumulated six points, five rebounds, one steal, three fouls and a perfect 2 for 2 from the line. In only his eighth game as a pro, Kirilenko posted a line of 13 points, eight rebounds, four blocks, two assists, two steals and 7 for 8 from the line against the team that traded his draft pick, the Orlando Magic. Certainly some very early signs of things to come as the man soon to be recognised as “AK47” began his career of stuffing the stat sheet on a regular basis.
By the end of his rookie campaign, Kirilenko had appeared in all 82 regular season games and posted numbers of 10.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.4 steals and 1.1 assists per game. This resulted in an All-Rookie First Team selection for the Russian, teaming him up with Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, Jason Richardson and Shane Battier.
Andrei improved steadily over his sophmore campaign before exploding in 2004 and earning himself an All-Star appearance. Kirilenko finished the 2003/04 season with a line of 16.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.8 blocks and 1.9 steals per game, making him a Fantasy basketball machine. He earned himself a place on the NBA’s All-Defensive 2nd Team, finished fifth in the league in steals, third in blocks, ninth in free throws made and eighth on the Player Efficiency Rating (PER) chart.
While his play on the basketball court is amazing, his relationship away from the court is probably more so. Andrei’s wife allows him to sleep with another woman once a year to “eliminate temptation”. Kirilenko’s wife Masha Lopatova was quoted as saying “What’s forbidden is always desirable. Athletes, particularly men, are susceptible to all the things they are offered,” Lopatova said. “It’s the same way raising children – If I tell my child, ‘No pizza, no pizza, no pizza,’ what does he want more than anything? Pizza!”. An interesting point of view for sure, you can check out the story here but we must say, this is something that will surely not show up in the remainder of the Hoop Diary Jersey Countdown.
In 2005 Kirilenko had one of the largest pay rises in NBA history moving up from $1.6m per season to a whopping $10.9m. He backed up the faith shown in him by the Jazz by finishing first in the NBA in total blocks, second overall in blocks per game and securing an All-Defensive First Team selection.
Despite his stellar play on both ends of the floor, Kirilenko has been a constant subject of trade talks in Utah since signing that large deal. While his play has slowly declined over the past five to six years, it’s ironically his contract that has made him so hard to move. A welcome addition to any championship-calibre team, one gets the impression that AK47 will likely see that move eventuate in the not too distant future when his current contract expires.
As it currently stands, Andrei Kirilenko has secured the following accolades throughout his NBA career:
- 1 x All-Star (2004)
- 1 x All-Rookie First Team (2002)
- 2 x All-Defensive Second Team (2004, 2005)
- 1 x All-Defensive First Team (2006)
- 1 x League Leader in Blocks per game (2005)
- 1 x League Leader in Total Blocks (2006)
Kirilenko’s career stat line is as follows: 12.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.4 steals per game, shooting 47% from the field and 76% from the free throw line.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Andrei Kirilenko is our Hoop Diary Jersey Countdown All-time greatest number 47!
Honourable Mention: Hall of Famer John Lucas who wore the number 47 for one season with the San Francisco Warriors in 1970.