Utah’s best player of the season has began his military service in Finland this week, after the Jazz couldn’t qualify for the NBA postseason and the player took advantage of the situation to complete a mandatory assistance that’s required in his nation before the age of 30.
After only a week back in Scandinavia, the player started by visiting friend and family and finally, shaving his head. The All-Star foward uploaded a photo of his new buzz cut on his Instagram account and told his fans not to worry because his “curls will be back.”
Lauri Markkanen shaved his head as he prepares for his mandatory service in the Finnish military this offseason.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 15, 2023
The 25-year-old told reporters that this was the perfect moment for him to do so. “I just figured if we’re not going to playing in the postseason this year, then it’s going to be a good time to do it now, instead of just postponing it and then eventually having to do it in a time that wouldn’t work so well for me,” Markkanen explained.
The player added that he’s not exactly sure how long will the service last over the coming months, considering that he has the option of competing his service across two summers.
“I definitely don’t want it to affect the basketball part, so we’ll figure out how to do a combination,” the power foward said.
After playing the biggest year of his professional career, the seven-foot athlete said he is happy to reconnect with people who are close back home. “It’s been good having some time to see family and friends and do some off-court stuff. I’ve been home probably for 4-5 days, so not too much time to relax but it’s been good,” he said.
Markkanen hopes to face this challenge with the same energy he does in the NBA. “Just like in a basketball court, I’ll try to give out everything I got every day,” he said. “I’m excited, it’s something I’ve never done and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot of things.”
The player ‘takes pride’ in being an ambassador of his country, just as he’s become a basketball star this year and Finland just joined NATO. “I want to represent Finland as best as I can, whether it’s on-court or off-court. I feel it’s a responsability and I’m enjoying it,” Markkanen assured.
Check out this recent interview from Finland’s Yle News just as he’s starting his military service:
The athlete has just been announced as a finalist for the Most Improved Player award
The talented foward has enjoyed his best NBA season of his young career, as he averaged 25.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per match.
This week, he was announced as a final candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, next to other greats such as Jalen Brunson from the New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Even though both his rival nominees have performed immensely this campaign, they had already displayed their amazing talent in other seasons before the 2022/23 tournament. If we are talking about improvement, then Markannen should be crowned with this accolade, considering he wasn’t even close to being an All-Star when he played for the Bulls.
Just as Finland was welcomed as the 31st member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization earlier this month, we hope the country isn’t encountered by political conflict or warefare during the player’s time in his nation’s military.