Lee Jenkins' excellent profile of Kristaps Porzingis debuted Tuesday. In it, we learn the gritty details of Kristaps' rugged childhood basketball experience:
Kristaps, the baby of the family, started playing in first grade for Edvins Sprude, who once coached [Kristaps's mother} Ingrida. Sprude could be brutal. "He made me cry," Kristaps recalls. "But I loved it." Sprude put Kristaps at point guard, and the oversized floor general polished his handle on the cracked wood out back. [Kristaps's brother] Mārtins threw elbows at him, impersonating Kaspars Kambala, the Latvian basketball player-boxer who treated the floor as a ring at UNLV. Kristaps loved that, too.
Yeah, that sounds like the Porzingis family we've come to know and love. But what of this Kaspars Kambala, Kristaps' role model and hero to the Latvian people? Born in Riga, Kambala played his high school ball in Wisconsin, then spent four years at UNLV. He remains one of the top rebounders in school history.
After college, Kambala bounced around Europe, playing for clubs like Real Madrid and Fenerbahçe. He was suspended 14 months for doping and spent his downtime in the most Latvian way possible: He became a pro boxer. He returned to basketball once his suspension was served, and currently plays for Adanaspor Basketbol of the Turkish Basketball Second League at the ripe old age of 37.
Not content merely to ball and box, Kambala wrote his autobiography, entitled "Kambala..., āmen!":
In conclusion, Kaspars Kambala is the finest role model a young Latvian boy could ever have.