NBA All-Star, reporting for military duty
Lauri Markkanen just completed the best season of his career, but the Utah Jazz forward is spending his offseason very differently from his National Basketball Association peers: training in the Finnish military.
State of play: Markkanen, 25, reported on Monday for the mandatory military service that all Finnish men must complete before turning 30.
- The seven-footer is at the Finnish Defense Forces' Sports School, which is specifically for conscripted athletes and enables sports training in addition to military training.
- He's expected to spend roughly 165 days in training, likely split between two offseasons to avoid conflicting with the NBA.
What he's saying: "It's mandatory … but at the same time we take pride in it, too," Markkanen told ESPN. "I think it sets an example to serve. And I'm confident I can do it in a way that it's not going to affect my preparation for next season."
The big picture: Finland is one of 49 countries with some form of mandatory military service, though it's among the few countries whose athletes have made headlines for such service.
- Finnish former F1 driver Kimi Räikkönen served as a corporal in 2000, and Carolina Hurricanes goalie Antti Raanta is among the handful of Finnish National Hockey League players who've completed their service.
- South Korean golfers Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim skipped the 2021 Open to focus on the Olympics, where winning a medal would have exempted them from mandatory service (neither medaled). Tottenham star Son Heung-min completed his service in 2020.