Ex-Lakers Player Slava Medvedenko Selling His 2 Championship Rings to Support Ukraine amid Russian Invasion

·3 min read
LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 16: Stanislav Medvedenko #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball the NBA game against the Golden State Warriors at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won, 101-85. DIGITAL IMAGE. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Robert Mora/NBAE via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 16: Stanislav Medvedenko #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball the NBA game against the Golden State Warriors at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won, 101-85. DIGITAL IMAGE. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Robert Mora/NBAE via Getty Images)

Robert Mora/NBAE via Getty

Slava Medvedenko is helping his home country of Ukraine – and the Los Angeles Lakers are in full support.

The former NBA player, 43, who played for the championship-winning organization from 2000 to 2006, is going to extra lengths to defend the country amid the Russian invasion, which began in February.

In an interview with The Athletic published on Monday, Medvedenko told the outlet that he's already auctioned off much of the memorabilia from his Lakers days to help support Ukraine, including shirts, sneakers, and jerseys, and is planning on auctioning off his 2000 and 2001 championship rings next.

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The Lakers are fully behind Medvedenko's efforts, offering to replace his rings should he sell his original versions, Lakers executive Linda Rambis told Medvedenko in an email.

"I'm proud that we're an organization that our former players know when they need help that somebody will answer their call," Lakers owner Jeanie Buss told The Athletic.

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Medvedenko made the decision to stay in Ukraine following Russia's initial invasion in February, where he and a group of volunteers formed the Volunteer Formation No. 29 of the 128th Separate Battalion for Kyiv's territorial defense. His wife, Elena, operated the radio for the group, which garnered over 200 volunteers within the first couple weeks.

Medvedenko sent his two youngest children, Masha, 11, and Slava, 10, to stay with his wife's mother in Western Ukraine away from the fighting. His older daughter, Alona, lives in Texas.

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The former NBA star was issued a Soviet-era AK-47 as part of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's promise to arm all citizens wanting to defend the country.

"In three weeks, we actually were like a police organization," the ex-NBA player said.

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"I feel like I have to stay in Ukraine and help our country, our nation, understand ourselves," he added. "We have to be strong. It's the opportunity to get stronger."

Russia's attack on Ukraine continues after their forces launched a large-scale invasion on Feb. 24 — the first major land conflict in Europe in decades.

Details of the fighting change by the day, but hundreds of civilians have already been reported dead or wounded, including children. Millions of Ukrainians have also fled, the United Nations says.

The invasion, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has drawn condemnation around the world and increasingly severe economic sanctions against Russia.

"Nobody is going to break us, we're strong, we're Ukrainians," President Zelenskyy told the European Union in a speech in the early days of the fighting, adding, "Life will win over death. And light will win over darkness."

The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE's complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.

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