I was honored to have the opportunity to celebrate Sergey Kushchenko’s 50th birthday with him in Moscow on Friday. I first met Sergey, the Executive Director of the Russian Biathlon Union and former President of CSKA Moscow, back in 2009 at the School Basketball Festival held in Yoshkar-Ola, the capital city of the Mari El Republic. 48 teams of young boys and girls from 24 regions of Russia took part in the first-time event. At the conclusion of the three-day festival, Sergey and I flew back to Moscow together in a tiny plane. We landed around midnight and wound up grabbing a late dinner at a great Italian restaurant, where we ate and drank for hours and really hit it off.
Coincidentally, I was scheduled for a trip to the Ukraine this weekend to begin preparations for EuroBasket 2011 and was able to make last minute arrangements to fly through Moscow for Sergey’s birthday on the way to Kiev. Numerous political officials (including Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Sergei Ivanov), business executives, legendary athletes, friends and family members were in attendance to pay tribute to Sergey, a pioneer who helped transform CSKA into a modern, world-class club that put Russia back on the map of great basketball countries. NBA Commissioner David Stern sent a birthday gift to Sergey on behalf of the NBA. I had the chance to meet Nets owner and RBU President Mikhail Prokhorov for the first time, who appointed Sergey, his chief sports advisor, to the Nets board of directors that evening.
The party was incredible. An eclectic ensemble of bands from around the world performed along with some local favorites. Sergey’s son also gave an impressive piano recital. There was a continual flow of food and libations the entire night. It was a warm experience and a wonderful show of affection by so many people who care for Sergey.