With just a little more than a week left until 24 talented basketball players from around the world take the court to compete in The Sprite Uncontainable Game in Houston during NBA All-Star 2013, it’s time to meet the final group of winners from India, Estonia and Lithuania.
These four guys each secured their spots by showcasing their skills in Sprite-sponsored 3-on-3 tournaments throughout 2012 in their respective countries. Thousands participated, but these players proved victorious. Now, they’ll join ballers from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, China and the Philippines to play on either Kobe Bryant’s Team Intense or LeBron James’ Team Sudden. They’ve got some help too: NBA players Andrea Bargnani and Al Horford will help coach Team Intense, and Omri Casspi and Serge Ibaka will assist for Team Sudden.
- Team Sudden
- Age: 18
- Height/Weight: 6'6”,198 lbs.
- City: Tallinn, Estonia
Averaging 15 points per game on Estonia’s under-18 national team last summer, Martin Jurtom now plays for his high school, hitting the court twice a day for hoops practice. “My biggest dream is to play in the NBA,” he says. When he’s not working hard to make that dream a reality, Jurtom relaxes by going swimming or to the movies with friends. He also likes to jam out to his favorite rappers. “I love to listen to them before every game,” he says. So what’s he most looking forward to in Houston? Playing in front of his basketball idol, LeBron James. “He’s so athletic; he is the best player in the world!”
- Team Intense
- Age: 17
- Height/Weight: 6’2”, 174 lbs.
- Hometown: Vilnius
“Basketball is a huge part of my life,” says Deividas Kumelis, who last summer helped lead the Lithuanian national team to the U17 World Championship. And for the last 10 years, he has trained with the Sarunas Marciulionis Basketball Academy. So what does he do when he’s not playing basketball? “I watch it.” Usually with his girlfriend or 12-year-old sister. “My family is really great and supportive,” he says. “We have a really good relationship.” In Houston, Kumelis plans on helping his team with his assists and killer three-pointer — that is, when he’s not star-gazing. “I can’t believe I’ll be seeing all the NBA players in person that I’ve only seen on TV,” he says. “It’s like a dream come true.”
- Team Sudden
- Age: 23
- Height/Weight: 5''9, 159 lbs.
- Hometown: Chennai, Tamilnadu
Playing ball since the age of 10, Akilan Pari has represented numerous teams on the court, including his high school and the state team for Tamilnadu. Currently, he plays for the state’s senior men’s team. Before he goes to his day job with the income tax department of India, Pari gets in a morning practice — and then hits the court again when he gets off work at 4 p.m. When he’s not playing ball, Pari plays cricket, swims and hangs out with his friends. What’s he most looking forward to in Houston? “Playing with the best ballers in the world and having the chance to develop my game,” he says. And to show off his competitive streak: “I’m going to give 100 percent until the final buzzer to make sure my team wins.”
Bopanna Parhanda Nanaiah
- Team: Intense
- Height/Weight:5’8”, 176 lbs.
- Hometown:Chennai, Tamilnadu
In the 12 years Bopanna Parhanda Nanaiah has been playing basketball, he’s racked up numerous awards, including multiple MVPs and a scholarship to play at Sathyabama University in India. Known as “Bopz” on the court, Nanaiah attributes his athletic talent and passion to his dad, who played hockey for the state team. “He’s a real inspiration to me and my family,” says Nanaiah. To prepare for the game, Nanaiah has been practicing up to nine hours a day. “I can’t wait to show my skills and help Team Intense win!”