By Antonis Stroggylakis / firstname.lastname@example.org
The pursuit of an NBA return was very much in play for Anadolu Efes superstar Shane Larkin a couple of years ago. It was in 2020 and shortly before the start of the EuroLeague regular season when Larkin told reporters that since the NBA is “always the goal” for all American players, then this ambition applies to himself as well.
That was some months after the 2019-20 EuroLeague campaign that was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic. If there was one team that was hurt the most by this development it was an Efes squad that had a league-best 24-4 record and looked the absolute favorite to win it all. If there was one player who lost the most – in purely basketball terms – after the season was shut down, that was a record-breaking and steamrolling Larkin who was taking EuroLeague by storm and was the overwhelming frontrunner for the MVP award.
Many things have happened since then which culminated Saturday (21/5) with Efes and Larkin getting crowned back-to-back EuroLeague champions in the Belgrade Final Four. Now, and while savoring all the flavor of his new success while holding his new EuroLeague champions’ cup in hand, the American juggernaut of a player said that he doesn’t care that much about getting back to the NBA.
“No,” Larkin said when Eurohoops asked him if the desire to return to the NBA is as strong now as it was two years ago. “At the end of the day, I’m extremely happy with where I’ve been in my career.”
This career so far includes winning multiple titles – including the two consecutive EuroLeague championships of 2021 and 2022 – achieving unprecedented, historic feats, already getting his name inscribed in the annals of a club (Efes) as a legend of the organization, getting paid handsomely by signing one lucrative deal after the other, while living in a beautiful city like Istanbul.
Larkin elaborated further and explained why this happiness that he has found in Europe as a player and individual, the fulfillment and joy he receives from being a star of a championship team, the excitement he feels when competing in roaring, loud arenas and the love that he gets showered with by fans are all priceless.
“I was actually talking to my sister the other day and I was like: I wouldn’t be able to write a better story for myself,” Larkin said. “I grew up in America. I didn’t know much about European basketball. To be here, to see the passion, to be in this atmosphere. To do the things that I’ve been able to accomplish here. I wouldn’t trade this for the world. Even if I could’ve gone back to the NBA and sign for a max contract, I would much rather choose this. Being able to play in front of these fans, with this passion and experience this in my life. This has been amazing and I’m very happy with everything.”
While Larkin isn’t so hot for the NBA anymore, his main backcourt mate and great buddy Vasilije Micic may be closer to the league than ever before. After winning Final Four MVP for a second consecutive season, word on the wire is that the Serbian guard will make the jump this summer. Micic’s rights have been owned by the Oklahoma City Thunder since December 2020.
It would mean that EuroLeague “Splash Bros” are splitting up and that the best guard duo outside the NBA is no longer a pair. But Larkin gives Micic all his blessing.
“If Vasa wants to go then Vasa goes to the NBA,” Larkin said. “I think he deserves that if he wants to. Like I said, people have to make decisions. Obviously, I love playing with Vasa. It’s been great. But I think he’s done so much over the last few years that if he wants to make that jump and take that chance in the NBA then he fully deserves that. And if he wants to come back and try to win it again, then he deserves that too.”