When LeBron James returned to Cleveland in October 2014, the Cavaliers were at home to the New York Knicks and while the focus was on number 23, at the other end, Shane Larkin was the starting point guard for the Knicks that night as he began his second season in the NBA.
Larkin recorded nine points off 4/6 shooting from the field in just over 28 minutes on the court. The nifty guard also dished out five assists and got five steals too as the Knicks recorded a 95-90 win to spoil James’ homecoming and David Blatt’s NBA coaching bow.
Two years on and Larkin’s journey has moved him from home comforts to foreign territory as he joined Baskonia (formally Laboral Kutxa) on a one-year deal. The 23-year-old will have NBA company in the form of Andrea Bargnani, who himself moved to the Liga Endesa side from the Brooklyn Nets as well as Roddy Beaubois and Tornike Shengelia. So, the Cincinnati, Ohio native will possibly look to those three a lot in his opening days in Spain but Larkin is confident ahead of the new season.
“I believe we have a lot of talent on this roster,” Larkin said about his new team. “We can be really good. Obviously, the goal is to win championships, so hopefully we can grow very well together as a team and win as many of them as we can.
“I want to win EuroLeague and win the Spanish league. I want to be the best point guard in Europe. That doesn’t necessarily mean scoring the most points or having the most assists, just being the point guard who did whatever he needed to do on a nightly basis to help his team win. If we win, everything else will take care of itself.”
Joining Baskonia looks to be a good fit for Larkin to further improve his style of play, as well as push his skill set to new levels. Historically, the Vitoria-based side has nurtured future NBA players such as Jose Calderon, Pablo Prigioni, Luis Scola, Mirza Teletovic and Tiago Splitter, which Larkin was heavily aware of and he knows that this move to Spain will only make him a better player in the future.
“I can grow on this team,” Larkin said. “I can’t name every single pro who has come through here, but I know of Jose Calderon, Pablo Prigioni, Luis Scola, Mirza Teletovic and Tiago Splitter to name a few. So it is obvious that the culture is very good, and the level of coaching and competition is very high.
“I believe that with this great opportunity I have been given, I can grow here as a person and as a player. That’s what is best for me at this point in my young career.”
Playing in the top leagues around Europe has benefited a lot of NBA players from Manu Ginobili to both Gasols and even in the international game, USA’s Kevin Durant used the 2010 FIBA world championships to become one of the NBA’s top stars with Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving doing in the same in their FIBA World Cup success of 2014. Larkin will no doubt use his one-year deal with Baskonia to learn and evolve. But most importantly, continue to play the sport that he loves playing.
“The NBA lifestyle is amazing, but I don’t play in the NBA because of the lifestyle,” he explained. “I play in the NBA because I love to play basketball at the highest level of competition. And with you saying players worry about not making it back into the NBA, that isn’t a concern of mine at all. I had several teams interested in me this summer and a few things – but nothing in regards to how I played – factored into how everything played out.
“Some are things I can control and some are things I couldn’t, but I think my new representation and new perspective on what it takes to be an everyday pros-pro will land me back in the league in no time. When that happens, I can grow and be more successful than I had been previously – especially after showing my abilities this year when put into a position where I can play my game in some ways.”