17 October, 2023
05 May, 2024
Poetic justice: Kendrick Perry is the MVP of the Final Four
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Poetic justice: Kendrick Perry is the MVP of the Final Four

BELGRADE (Serbia) - A year after his heartbreaking miss in the Semi-Final of the Basketball Champions League Final Four in Malaga, in front of 10,000 of Unicaja fans, Kendrick Perry found redemption.

The 31-year-old from Ocoee, Florida kept his composure through the whole season and when the time arrived, he turned into a superhero at the Final Four in Belgrade.

First, on Friday, he had 12 points in 17 minutes in the Semi-Final against UCAM Murcia. Then, he was named to the Star Lineup First Team at the Awards Ceremony on Saturday. And finally, he saved his best for last, writing a gigantic page of his own history book in the Final on Sunday.

Perry collected a team-high 17 points in less than 20 minutes off the bench, including a crucial stretch of 5 points in a row and a steal to help Unicaja fend off a late Lenovo Tenerife charge in the fourth quarter.

For all of his heroics over the weekend, Perry earned the MVP of the Final Four award after leading Unicaja to their maiden BCL title.

"Last year missing that shot, and this year winning it all - this is the beauty of sport" - Marcelinho Huertas praising his rival Kendrick Perry

"Honestly, I haven't looked at that Bonn game (in the Semi-Finals last season) since. Obviously it was a disappointing moment for myself and for the team, but I just didn't wanna live in the past," Kendrick offered after the Final.

"I understood that it's gonna take a lot for us to get back into this position in terms of reaching the Final Four, with the expectations from the outside that we would just wake up and be in the Final Four. It just took a lot of grit, a lot of determination, it took a lot of sacrifice again. But we made the necessary adjustments, starting with myself all the way down the line."

Perry enjoyed his celebratory cigar at the press conference, tilting back his hat with the word 'Champions' emblazoned under the Basketball Champions League logo, so you could see his face as he continued talking.

"I'm preaching. I'm saying the word 'sacrifice' a lot, because that's what this team has done. When you look at our roster, 1 through 14, everybody's resumè is impeccable. Even the younger guys like Tyson [Carter] and Dylan [Osetkowski] who still have a lot to prove as professionals," he said.

"The biggest thing is that everybody has a chip on their shoulder, everybody has their own story to tell and we were able to come together and realize that this is bigger than us individually."

After the Final, one of the warmest moments happened in the corner of the new ASB GlassFloor court. The newest Final Four MVP embraced his former coach Aleksandar Dzikic, who was covering the game as a color commentator for the BCL's international broadcast.

"Coach Dzikic and I, we have a really good relationship, going back to our short time in Buducnost after I left Panathinaikos. He's always had great confidence in me," Perry explained.

"Even playing against me, I remember when he was coaching Partizan and I was playing in North Macedonia, he gave me some kind words back then that always kind of stuck with me. So that was kind of a full circle for us."

You know how you can tell somebody is a great leader? All of Perry's teammates were oozing with pride for him reaching this illustrious individual award.

"It's beautiful how life works sometimes. If you do not lose, you cannot learn. After that defeat in Malaga last season, we learned a lot. This guy winning the MVP is amazing," Nihad Dedovic smiled.

"He is a great leader, great player, so fun to play with, obviously I'm really happy for him," Tyler Kalinoski added.

It wasn't only the teammates who expressed their appreciation.

"He's fearless," former Final Four MVP Marcelinho Huertas said.

"He doesn't care if he missed the last shot or last two shots, he's going to keep on trying and he's always putting pressure on the defense. Tonight, he just showed how resilient he is. Last year missing that shot, and this year winning it all - this is the beauty of sport," the Lenovo Tenerife captain added.

Perry now joins an exclusive list of Final Four and Final Eight MVPs, which includes Marius Grigonis (Tenerife, 2017), Mike Green (AEK, 2018), Kevin Punter (Virtus, 2019), Thad McFadden (Burgos, 2020), Vitor Benite (Burgos, 2021), Marcelinho Huertas (Tenerife, 2022) and TJ Shorts II (Bonn, 2023).