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Sasha Vujacic reveals truth on Kobe Bryant, relationship with Lakers fans

Sasha Vujacic, Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant

As a player, getting your name etched in the history books with the Los Angeles Lakers more often than not starts with an NBA Championship. A signature moment of some sort, especially in the playoffs, only helps secure your name in Lakers lore. That’s exactly what guard Sasha Vujacic did as Kobe Bryant and 28.2 million people anxiously looked on.

Vujacic, well-known for his nickname ‘The Machine’ for being a scoring punch off the Lakers bench, played seven seasons in Los Angeles with the purple and gold. His most notable moment came in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.

With 11.7 seconds left in the NBA season, Sasha Vujacic took a pass from Lamar Odom and braced for a quick foul by Boston. His two free throws, with the Lakers already up 81-79, would make it increasingly difficult for the Celtics to tie or win the game.

Vujacic made both, the Celtics missed on their ensuing possession, and the Lakers became back-to-back NBA Champions.

To this day, Lakers fans still go crazy for Sasha Vujacic. ‘The Machine,’ nickname still gets thrown around and Vujacic still loves it.

“[The love from Lakers fans] has been amazing,” Vujacic told ClutchPoints in an exclusive interview. “Getting drafted by the Lakers in the first round. I was one of those people that my dream was not only to go to the NBA, but my dream was to go to LA and win with the Lakers and obviously to play with one of the best players that’s ever played the game.

“Thank God I didn’t miss those free throws. A lot of times, people forget that I was there for seven years and the only thing they remember are the free throws and thank god because that was payback and to answer your question, that’s probably one of the most amazing feelings that Lakers fans got and I got as well and our team. By winning and getting our rematch done properly in 2010.”

Vujacic wouldn’t point to the free throws as his favorite moment of his career, but says it was a huge load off the team’s shoulders to avenge the 2008 Finals loss.

“There are many favorite moments, but when we won that championship, it 100% was a big relief. In 2008 when we lost, for a year, myself, a lot of my teammates, and people in LA actually didn’t wear green for a year. You know how consistent and serious we were about.”

Kobe Bryant was Sasha Vujacic’s mentor and big brother during their seven seasons together with the Lakers. The loss of the Lakers star is still tough for the Vujacic to talk about, but he was able to share some good memories with Bryant.

“You know, Kobe was my big brother,” Vujacic told ClutchPoints. “I still can’t find the words to talk about it because it’s just something that I’m still kind of fighting how it happened, what happened, him, Gigi. It’s just tough because besides being a big brother for me, he was an incredible teammate and someone that was one-of-a-kind.”

The Last Dance, a documentary filled with never before seen footage of Michael Jordan and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, had its release date moved up during the COVID-19 pandemic. The June 2020 release allowed fans itching to see the return of sports discuss Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Phil Jackson, and all the other characters featured in the 10-episode series.

Given the state of the world and thirsty people were for sports, even stars got in on the fun, watching and reacting to each episode as it dropped weekly.

Sasha Vujacic was among those to watch the documentary during the pandemic and says the similarities between Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan were striking.

“Safely, I can tell you, for example, I watched The Last Dance during the pandemic and what I’ve seen in The Last Dance and being with Kobe for so many years, I just got a confirmation that right there, you’ve got Kobe and MJ,” Vujacic said while bringing his hands together and interlocking fingers. “I was honored and lucky and you know just happy to be able to learn and compete against him every day and I think he accepted me the first day when he saw that I’m also a little bit obsessed with winning and hard work and that’s how the mutual respect and brotherhood kind of started.”

A number of players over the years have playfully described Kobe Bryant as an, ‘asshole.’ Vujacic disagreed with that notion, explaining that winning was the one and only thing that drove Kobe. Thus, there was no figuring out of Bryant to be done. Vujacic simply stayed in his own lane, determined to accomplish his lifelong dream of winning an NBA Championship with the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I didn’t figure out the way [to get on Kobe Bryant’s good side]. I didn’t care about that. When I showed up at the gym at 4 o’clock, 5 o’clock in the morning, there’s Kobe. When you see there’s the franchise player and a young kid that came from Europe that I have to prove myself, he recognized why I was in LA. I didn’t care about Hollywood, I didn’t care about celebrity statuses and stuff like that. All I cared about was winning and when you put the hard work in, when you combine talent and opportunity, the real ones recognize real and that was with Kobe.”

Sasha Vujacic has been retired from the NBA for a few years now following stints with the New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, and New York Knicks. His focus has since turned to his family’s wine business. Following the 2010 NBA Championship, Vujacic purchased a Paso Robles property, where Aleksander Wine is produced and sold.

“When I was 15, I left home, and my dream was to go to the NBA to win with the Lakers. That was my number one goal so I left Slovenia, I went to Italy. In my five years before I got drafted by the Lakers, that’s when another dream was born with my family and that dream was to have a family winery one day. Step by step, things were happening, my parents living in LA with me, cuz they came when I got drafted, my brother, my sister, everybody so it was like okay, there’s a perfect opportunity. First Finals, heartbreaking. No dream. The second year in the Finals, we got it, and then we got an opportunity to get our property in 2010 and it’s a family thing. Five employees and its all family members. We want to build something for the next 50 generations. That’s our goal, and we are big on our wine club, allocations only with our accounts, and we are proud to work with some of the best accounts in LA, across the country, and also in Vegas.”

You can find more details on Vujacic’s family-owned winery here.