One day the word “Fesenko” will be like “karaoke.” It will be something people go to bars to do for fun. I’m not sure, exactly, what it will be, but it will be entertaining. — Henry Abbott, Truehoop.
I love the NBA. I love Ukraine. I love irreverent comedy. Amazingly these three elements somehow conflate in the person of Ukrainian born, 7’1″, 300lbs Utah Jazz centre Kyrylo Fesenko — one of the funniest basketball players alive.
This summer ESPN columnist Bill Simmons laid out grading scheme for athlete comedy. His contention being that most athletes aren’t actually funny, but as our expectations are so low, we give them too much credit when they say something clever. Grades on the scale include:
0.0 — Comedically Dead (any PGA golfer, Marcin Gortat, Adam Morrison, Chauncey Billups, most female foreign tennis players, LaDainian Tomlinson.)
3.0 — Comedically Deceiving (Even though it seems they should be funny, they aren’t funny at all and don’t try to be funny. But yet, there’s something slightly funny about them. Just slightly. Examples: Johnny Damon, Yao Ming, Brad Miller, every NHL player, Philip Rivers.)
9.5 — Legitimately Funny (Teammates rave about how funny they are. If they get miked up, they’ll always have one or two good lines. Even their interviews are good if they’re invested. Would they be one of your three funniest friends? Probably not. But they’re still funny. Examples: LeBron James, Dustin Pedroia, Chris Webber and Gary Payton (only when together), Nick Swisher, Rasheed Wallace, Shaq, Kobe Bryant (for every Lakers fan).)
Even before he was in the NBA I’d heard tales of Kyrylo Fesenko’s comedic talents. Henry Abbott, the author of ESPN Truehoop blog all but petitioned NBA GMs to sign Fesenko (nicknamed “Fess”) just so he could keep us entertained. It seemed that every week, “Fess” did, or said something absolutely hilarious. Some nuggs of hilarity were a result of langauge and cultural barriers, but some simply came from the fact that Fess is legitimately funny.
On the Simmons scale I’d place Fess in this category:
9.0 — Unintentionally/Intentionally Funny
Self-explanatory. The best example is Delonte West. He makes me laugh and intends to make me laugh, but he’s only in control of 75 percent of my laughter; the other 25 percent comes from the fact that he’s unintentionally funny, too. Now, that ratio can sway in other ways: For instance, Ron Artest is 25 percent in control, and 75 percent unintentional. Ultimately, we’re all winners. I swear that made sense when I wrote it. Other examples: Chris Kaman, Gilbert Arenas, the Lopez brothers, Stephen Jackson, Clinton Portis, Kevin Millar.
Now Simmons didn’t list Fess in his article, but with the help of Henry Abbott at Truehoop and Ross Siler of the SLC Tribune I’d like to make a case for Kyrylo Fesenko’s inclusion in this category. If Fesenko’s facebook photo (above) isn’t enough to tickle your funny bone, check this story from a few seasons ago. One thing I’ve discovered this year is that after learning all the grammar, vocabulary and correct pronunciation of a new language,; cracking a good joke is actually the hardest thing to do in a foreign language, thus making the following more remarkable.
Did you hear this quote from Fesenko? “The Timberwolves printed on [Ross Siler’s] credential that [he] was there to cover the March 30, 20008 game. Fesenko took a look at that extra zero and asked: ‘Were you sent here to kill us all?'”
After the jump you’ll find a compendium of Fesenko comedy, both intentional and not. Enjoy!