Jonas Valanciunas showing he’s more than a basketball player

Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

As sports fans, we oftentimes get so caught up talking about players and their on the court performances that we forget that they are more than just basketball players. We forget that, at the end of the day, they are people, first and foremost.

I always relate it back to an episode from “The Old Man and the Three” podcast where Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard made a comment that he doesn’t spend all day worrying about ways to win an NBA title. He plays with his kids, goes to see his mom, and talks with his grandmother on the phone. He reminds us that he has a life outside of basketball.

And that’s why it is always awesome hearing the news that we heard about Jonas Valanciunas this week. In his free time, the New Orleans Pelicans starting center had spent the entire season working toward his degree, even writing a thesis on sports psychology. And this week, he was rewarded by earning his degree from Lithuanian Sports University.

Despite being 31 years old, eleven years into his NBA career, and in the middle of a 2-year/30.1-million dollar contract, Valanciunas is still concerned with his education and the prospect of making himself a more well-rounded individual. That is awesome and should be appreciated.

The Pelicans have absolutely been killing it on the academic front lately. In May, CJ McCollum delivered the address at Lehigh’s 155th undergraduate spring commencement. McCollum, of course, graduated from Lehigh University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism. Who knows, maybe he and Valanciunas can team up to write a few papers together sometime.

Lillard, Valanciunas, and McCollum have all accomplished splendid feats by becoming some of the best basketball players on the planet Earth. That is a very cool thing to do, but remember that they are still a lot more than that. They are still people, just like you and me.

Next. 10 Players the Pelicans gave up on way too soon. dark