-- Viktor Sanikidze, 25 years old, 2.3 metre tall professional Georgian
basketball player, is one of the most successful Georgian sportsmen to
have played in European and US basketball teams.
Sanikidze is at the moment a member of Italian team Virtus Bologna but says that he is doing his best to play for the NBA.
NBA teams have some of the highest paid players. According to Top NBA Salaries, out of the 30 highest paid players the first is Kobe Bryant from LA Lakers who has 25,244,000 USD income. In second place with 22,152,000 USD is Rashard Lewis from Washington, and in 30th place is Richard Hamilton from Detroit with his salary of 12,650,000 USD.
Viktor Sanikidze had an opportunity to play with an NBA team. He was selected with the 42nd pick of the 2004 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks, but his draft rights was traded to the San Antonio Spurs for a 2005 second-round pick. In July 2007, Sanikidze played for San Antonio's summer league squad during the Rocky Mountain Revue Summer League, scoring 15 points in a Spurs loss to the Philadelphia 76ers’ summer league.
“I started playing basketball when I was about 12. I didn’t plan to become a sportsman, I was studying. I was not tall enough for basketball. I have a brother who played basketball at that time. I was kind of inspired by my brother and asked my parents to take me to basketball classes. So I began to practice and as it turns out I became quite successful,” Sanikidze said.
“I worked on myself and practiced a great deal. I finished school, went to MOSCOW . I was playing there in a youth team. At one of the youth competitions one of the coaches noticed me and invited me to America. One of my friends and I accepted this offer and went to New York Junior College. I stayed there for a while, but afterwards the conditions there weren’t really affordable for me. So I moved from the USA to one of the European teams. And that’s when my professional career began.
After a while an agent became interested in me and we signed an agreement. I was playing in one of the French clubs - JDA Dijon, where I played for two years. When I moved to France I was 17. After quite a successful first season in France I was taken to NBA Draft, which was the biggest event for me. It was amazing to have achieved such success at a young age, but unfortunately after a medical check it appeared that I had an injury which I had to look after.
I came back to France and played there, but my injury became even worse and I had an operation on my knee. I then trained again and was able to continue playing. I signed a new contract with one of the Spanish basketball teams. I played there for 1 year and continued playing for the Georgian National team. Unfortunately my injury flared up again so I came back to Georgia and was cured at Tatishvili Clinic.”
After recovering from the injury, Sanikidze went to Estonia in order to keep in good physical form and train.
“I had to practice much in order to return to my previous physical condition after the trauma. After some time when I felt well already, I signed a contract with Italian Basketball team Virtus Bologna, where I am playing at the moment. I had a 2 + 1 year contract with them. I have new offers now but I haven’t yet decided where I’ll move to. My agent is working on it.
I had quite a good season this year, and I had a chance to play in the USA but NBA announced Lockout, it’s a kind of strike and until February I’ll not have a chance to play there, however I am still in contact with one of the NBA teams,” Sanikidze said.
According to Sanikidze, the Georgian National Basketball team is at its highest level now and has great chances for future success.
“Our national basketball team is at its highest level since Georgian independence. We are successfully participating in European competitions and playing at the European Championship. We have achieved quite big success and we do hope that we will be much more successful in the future.
When I went to the USA, there were really terrible conditions for young sportsmen here in Georgia. They had no opportunity to achieve success, but nowadays they have quite big opportunities and conditions. Young children have quite a lot of support from the Government to play sports. Armia club and Sokhumi club are some of the best teams to play for in Georgia and are quite successful.
I was quite young when I started playing abroad and it was really hard for me. You have to cope with the situation around you and play with 12-13 other players of the team with whom you always have to compete. If you aren’t self confident you can’t achieve any success, mostly when you are young. It’s hard when you are away from your country, friends and parents. Fortunately nowadays I have managed to overcome these problems.
According to Sanikidze, European countries also put quite large investments in to basketball and have quite strong teams.
“Italy, Spain and most European countries put quite large finances and investments in to basketball development. They have very strong teams, but most young basketball player’s dreams are about playing for NBA teams. Those players who are playing in NBA and European teams are the biggest forces for our national team. We have many good players who have practiced a lot.
The main point for achieving success in basketball is to work hard but talent plays a key role. No matter how hard you train, if you don’t have talent you can’t achieve success. You should have both talent and desire to train all the time. Nowadays I am really content with what I have achieved in basketball, of course there could have been better situations at times, but taking in to account my trauma and injuries I am quite content with what I have done until now.
As a member of the national team I will do my best to participate successfully in the European Championship. It’s really important for me. We feel much support from Georgians and we will try to make our country proud.”