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Lee Having Hard Time Getting Over Unwanted Transfer

Posted May. 31, 2007 03:57,   


From his unkempt hair and unshaven face, it was easy to tell how hard a time he has gone through recently. The most popular professional basketball player looked nothing close to his nickname, “oxygen-fresh.”

We met Lee Sang-min (35) on May 30 at his home in Seongnam City, Gyeonggi Province. “The last couple of days feel like an eternity. I probably won’t ever be able to forget this,” Lee said, after a long hesitation.

On the night of May 28, Lee was dumbfounded after he was told by KCC club officials, including the owner Chung Mong-ik, that he was excluded from the team’s list of ‘protected players,’ as a result of their purchase of Seo Jang-hoon from Samsung. In a good-bye party hosted by KCC to console him, he drank until 3 a.m. and got completely drunk. Although his wife Lee Jeong-eun asked him what happened while he kept throwing up over and over, he just said it was nothing, bursting into tears.

Lee wandered around the streets next day, refusing to talk to anyone. On May 30, he heard from his wife that Samsung has bought him as a compensatory player. “I felt that I was fated to be transferred, since the moment I was excluded from KCC’s protection list. My wife cried a lot, and people who care about me, including my parents, must have been very much concerned.”

Lee joined Hyundai, the predecessor of the current KCC, right after his graduation from Yonsei University in 1995. He has expressed for several times his wish to finish his career where he started it. He has felt sorry for his seniors such as Hur Jae or Kang Dong-hee, who have moved to different teams a lot late in their careers for various reasons, despite their significant contribution to Korean basketball.

“I decided not to follow suit, but it came to this. I would have quit a few years ago when I was at the top if I had known this was coming…” In order to help the team buy Seo Jang-hoon, Lee willingly signed for 200 million won this year, taking a pay cut of 120 million compared to last year.

“Regarding the case of Jang-hoon, KCC has to be especially sorry to me for that because I had accepted their request to sacrifice.”

Lee was a two-year senior to Seo back at Yonsei University and played a crucial role in Seo’s transfer to KCC. To his great disappointment, however, all these efforts ended up in vain.

“I thought of flying away abroad leaving everything behind. I thought of retiring right away before my circumstances grow more dreadful,” confessed Lee, taken by surprise while having no idea what was waiting for him.

However, it seemed that the point guard couldn’t let down the expectations of his fans, who have voted him first in All-Star Game popularity votes for the last six years.

“Samsung is a prestigious club, and this needs no elaboration. I feel quite burdened, now that I’m quite aged and I’m not sure what I can do for the team. I’ll take it as a new opportunity and make whatever contribution I can.”