Lauri Markkanen Named NBA's Most Improved Player
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Finnish basketball player Lauri Markkanen made history as the Utah Jazz wing center was named the Most Improved Player in the NBA, receiving 69 out of 100 first-place votes and finishing ahead of Gilgeous Alexander-Walker and Jalen Brunson.
With an impressive season average of 25.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.9 assists, Markkanen also made his first All-Star appearance and became the first Utah player to receive this prestigious award.
Serving his Duty: Military Service in the Finnish Army
However, the award ceremony will have to wait a few months as Markkanen is currently fulfilling his military service in the Finnish army in Helsinki.
Despite the early hours, Markkanen was elated with the news and expressed his gratitude through the TNT program, "Didn't wake up at 2 a.m. for nothing. It feels great. Obviously, it's a huge privilege to be in this position." Markkanen's military commitment began earlier this month, where he had to bid farewell to his long curly hair for the mandatory shaved-head look of a soldier.
Despite the demanding schedule of military duties, Markkanen described his experience as positive, "Days are pretty long. We wake up early and go for probably 10, 12 hours straight. It's been fun, getting to know a lot of new guys, making some new friends, and knowing you have to go through it together.
It's actually been pretty good." The George Mikan trophy will be presented to Markkanen at the beginning of the next season, marking a significant milestone in his basketball career and a proud moment for the Finnish community.
Embracing Military Service Despite Stardom
Regarded as the finest Finnish basketball player and one of the nation's most exceptional athletes, Markkanen will shortly embark on his military service tenure. The standard minimal period of service is four months.
However, in exceptional circumstances, the Finnish Ministry of Defense can permit a reduced term, which Markkanen is likely to receive. "It's mandatory, we have to do it, but at the same time we take pride in it, too," expressed the 25-year-old Markkanen.
"I think it sets an example to serve. And I'm confident I can do it in a way that it's not going to affect my preparation for next season, either."