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NBA exile Kendrick Nunn finds happiness in Europe as EuroLeague champion

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By Antonis Stroggylakis / info@eurohoops.net

BERLIN– Kendrick Nunn was a believer from Day 1.

Back in October and after a summer in which no NBA team came knocking at his door, Nunn, a former All-Rookie Team member, decided to make a leap of faith and move his game to Europe. He signed for Panathinaikos Athens, one of the most decorated organizations in the EuroLeague and, at the same time, a struggling team that was unable to make even the playoffs the previous years.

Nunn wouldn’t embark on this journey into basketball unknown if he didn’t believe it would work. If he didn’t believe that he would succeed.

Several month afterward, Nunn’s belief paid off with the biggest prize there could be for him. Winning the EuroLeague championship, Panathinaikos‘ first since 2011 and seventh in club history.

“It’s been a long year,” Nunn told Eurohoops. “I came here. Just believed in myself. Jut giving all I can to this team. Hell of a feeling man. Hell of a feeling.”

“i believed in us,” Nunn added. “I believed in myself and knew nothing was impossible as long as you do the right things every day and take the right steps into being a champion.”

It took Nunn a bit of a time when he arrived to Europe to adjust to a basketball territory that was completely uncharted or him. To convert his rich talent and slick skills into winning performances. To get accustomed to defensive schemes unlike anything he had witness before. To adapt to life overseas.

His family, the rock that’s giving him strength, was

“They sacrificed a lot all year,” Nunn said. “To be here all year. Brand new. Not knowing anything. Not knowing anyone. They’ve been holding me down all year. Without them, I couldn’t do it.”

Once things began clicking for Nunn, he emerged as one of the most important players for Panathinaikos. He added a new, much-needed dimension to the team’s offensive game, provided leadership, buckets aplenty and several clutch moments.

The culmination of his contribution arrived in the playoffs where he averaged 19.2 points (on a superb 16 – 31 threes), 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists to lead Panathinaikos past a very tough Maccabi Tel Aviv team. He 27 in a “win-or-go-home” Game 4 for his team and 26 in the decisive Game 5 victory that followed.

Thanks to these performances, Nunn more or less secured a spot on the All-Euroleague First Team. Some would argue that he maybe also deserved MVP.

Nunn played his part and then some also in the Final Four. 14 points against Fenerbahce Beko in the semifinal and 21 points in the championship game to help bring Panathinaikos to the throne of EuroLeague.

“Hell of a feeling man. Hell of a feeling,” Nunn said.

Along the whole process, Nunn fell in love with both Panathinaikos and EuroLeague basketball despite growing up in entirely different culture.

“I appreciate it a lot,” Nunn mentioned. “The EuroLeague fans. The Panathinaikos fans. Just the passion that everyone around Europe has for this league. It’s unbelievable to play for. I’m very happy. I’m  happy I came here and I had to experience it.”

Nunn signed a contract extension with Panathinaikos back in May. The deal includes some NBA out clauses that the U.S. guard can exercise if he finds a situation that pleases him.

If not? Coming back and lead the quest for the back-to-back is a fine option.

“I mean, have to weigh my options,” Nunn said when asked if what he’s experiencing as a EuroLeague champion is enough to make him perhaps ignore any NBA offers that may come his way in the offseason. “I have to see how’s it’s looking. If it’s not what I particularly want and I don’t feel comfortable with going there. I signed extension here and we can pretty much run it back if I want to.

“I want to relive these moments,” Nunn admitted. “Nothing beats being a champion. Nothing. This is what I play basketball for.  This is what I’ve played basketball for. I play to be a champion. To leave my legacy in the game.”

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