We linked to this particular bit of wonderful on Friday, but upon further review this story deserves its own post. Indiana Pacers center Kyrylo Fesenko has been regarded as a lovable goofball since his entry into the NBA in 2007, and he again warmed the cold hearts of the Internet last week by re-telling the story of the first time he met Shaquille O'Neal (Fes, then an overseas prospect, asked for a picture and autograph in 2005), and then the first time he played against big Shaq — by then a member of the Miami Heat, in 2007.
SB Nation's Michael Katz, writing for The Classical, talked to Fesenko recently about his less than ideal matchup:
"I played against him first time for, I spent 50 seconds on the court, actually 50 seconds against Shaq," he said. "So, at one point he was posting me up and I was thinking 'Oh, I got him. I got him.' And I pictured myself, you know, blocking him. You know, I pictured myself being on the front page of all newspapers and everything. I was already so hyped, like I was thinking how I'm going to tell it to my friends. And then he dunked on me."
Demoralizing, right? Not at all.
"When you first time meet your hero—if you ever meet your hero—you will definitely remember it," he said. "I was still thinking about like, 'Did somebody get a picture of that?'"
Sadly, nobody did get a picture of that, Fes. But Getty Images did manage to snap a picture of you driving past Dorrell Wright in that particular game (as seen above), one in which you played 313 seconds (in total) and managed to make your lone shot attempt in addition to pulling down three rebounds. Sound production, in five minutes work, in addition to being dunked on by your hero.
In fairness, this is exactly the sort of on-record stuff that made Fesenko's time in Utah, especially under Jerry Sloan, so combative. Sloan didn't care for Fes dying coloring his hair, and the center's hilarious back and forth talks with the media. For Fes to admit to being a bit proud that he'd made it to a point in his career where he could be dunked on by The Most Dominant Ever is certainly something that would make an old-school type like Sloan retch.
But even old-school types have to go to school at some point. And though he may not have told the 42 afternoon Baltimore-area dallies about it directly after, we've no doubt that Sloan himself probably got a thrill the first time Oscar Robertson backed him down and scored a turnaround jumper in his first meeting against the Big O. And, let's face it, 2007-08 was just about the beginning of the end for Shaq, even though he played until 2011. Injured and often ineffective, he was shipped to the Phoenix Suns a few weeks after his first meeting with Big Fes. He wasn't exactly an obstacle the Jazz were going to have to stare down.
Lest you think Our Man Fes is a bit of a scrub, due to his short stint with the Pacers and Utah's seeming indifference, understand that he's recovering from injury, and could be one of the more pivotal performers in the postseason for an Indiana Pacers team that actually has a better record than the Los Angeles Lakers, despite 12,000 fewer NBA blog posts to their credit. Hopefully Fesenko's play, and candor, change that rate.