Samsung Thunders’ Lee announces retirement

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Samsung Thunders’ Lee announces retirement

One of the Korean Basketball League’s most popular players has decided to step off the court. The Samsung Thunders’ Lee Sang-min, 38, considered one of the all-time best point guards in the history of Korean professional basketball, will retire due to injuries and fears that he would not be able to play up to his standards next season, according to a statement released by the team yesterday.

Lee signed a two-year deal before the start of last season and had a year remaining on his contract, but he was coming off the most disappointing season of his career. Last year he averaged 16 minutes and 48 seconds, 3.8 points and 3.1 assists. A lingering back injury that hampered his play is also a big reason for the veteran guard’s decision to step away from the game.

“I wanted to win the title before I retired, and it’s a little regrettable that I missed out on the opportunity to do so,” said Lee in an interview with Yonhap. “I decided to retire because I figured my chronic back problem and deteriorating conditioning would limit me from showcasing pleasing performances for the fans.”

“Lee had a hard time this past season. When he couldn’t contribute on the team, the stress kept him from getting a proper night’s sleep,” said Thunders official Jung Sung-sul. “He has time remaining on his contract but worried a lot about whether he would be able to play to his potential. I think he decided that the time was right for him to take the next step into the coaching world.”

Lee will make the announcement at an official press conference today at 11:30 a.m. but he is expected to make the transition into a coaching position. Samsung has promised to provide Lee with overseas coaching training and a coaching position with the team if he desires.

Lee first gained national prominence and a huge female following when, as a junior at Yonsei University, he led his squad to a 1993 national tournament win over semi-professional teams such as Kia and Samsung. He would also lead Korea to its last Asian Games title in 1997.

Lee started his professional career with Hyundai (now KCC) and won four titles with the team. He would go onto amass 5,675 points, 1,952 rebounds, 3,583 assists and 881 steals in 13 seasons.

Lee retires from the game as one of its most popular stars. He received the most votes from the fans for the annual KBL All-Star game in January, becoming the top vote-getter for nine consecutive seasons.


By Jason Kim, Kim Woo-chul [jason@joongang.co.kr]

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