The 2010-11 champion has been named in Russia and for the ninth consecutive season, it is CSKA Moscow. Along with the exultation of the Red Army’s 74-63 victory over BC Khimki, however, came the sad (if inevitable) news that longtime Muscovite J.R. Holden would be retiring from professional basketball.
But then, the announcement. Russia-based RIA Novosti today reports that after the game, Holden told his teammates that “This was probably my last basketball match. I’ve decided to end my career.” As for whether the naturalized citizen will play for Team Russia in FIBA Eurobasket 2011, Holden stated to the media that he’d promised coach David Blatt to participate and “I plan to keep my word, [but] so far I can’t say exactly if I’ll play in the European championship or not. I still have a week to think about it.”
Holden graduated from Bucknell University in 1998 and went uncalled in the NBA Draft. After bouncing around Latvia, Belgium and Greece, Holden landed with CSKA Moscow in 2002, ultimately calling Russia home. CSKA’s mantelpiece has become more decorated since Holden took over leadership of the Moscow backcourt, earning eight national titles, four Russian Cups, two Euroleague championship titles and eight EL Final Four appearances.
The 35-year-old has played in 209 Euroleague games, averaging 11.4 points and 2.9 assists per game in cumulative EL play, including his 2001-02 bid with AEK Athens.
In terms of individual career highlights, however, the jewel in the man’s crown is certainly the stirring and stunning run led by Holden, Khyrapa and Andrei Kirilenko in Eurobasket 2007. The tourney was capped with a brilliant 60-59 shutting down of mighty Team Spain by the unheralded Russian side who’d only entered the competition through a last-chance qualification round. And guess whose jumper with two seconds remaining was the decisive basket in the gold-medal game…?
This last PBL victory by CSKA may have led in part to Holden’s decision, as he remarked that “he’s on top and did not wish to be ‘like Michael Jordan with Washington.’”