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Mantas Kalnietis, who has become a symbol of Zalgiris Kaunas over the years and has repeatedly declared his love for the club, is putting an end to his professional career. The 36-year-old 196 cm tall guard will hang them up after the 29 January Betsafe-LKL Championship game against Jonava CBet in Zalgirio Arena.
“This is a special event for me, I want to announce to everyone that I am finishing my basketball career. I still have a week left before I play my farewell game, but this phase of my life, which has lasted since November 1993, is over. We will look for new goals in life,” Kalnietis told Zalgiris TV.
The Kaunas-born player, who made his debut in Zalgiris’ main team in the 2005-2006 season and spent almost 10 seasons with the club, has also worn the jerseys of Lokomotiv-Kuban Krasnodar, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan and ASVEL Villeurbane.
He returned to Zalgiris for the last stage of his career in the summer of 2021, and played a more prominent role in the local championship, where he averaged 13 minutes with 3.7 points and 3 assists to show.
According to Kalnietis, his decision to retire in the middle of the 2022-2023 season was due to his reduced importance for the team and the line-up changes in Zalgiris.
“There were many reasons. Basketball has always been a pleasure for me, not a job. I always enjoyed playing basketball. There came a point when I couldn’t get the role that I used to play in the team. You just don’t feel like you’re fulfilling yourself. There came a moment when I realized that maybe I will be more useful to the team when I leave rather than when I was here. Injuries and signings of new players have imposed new financial burdens on the club, and I decided that this would make me more useful to Zalgiris,” explained Kalnietis, who will terminate his contract on February 1st.
For the final game of Kalnietis’ career, Zalgiris is preparing a celebration for the player and the fans. On the 29th of January, the green-and-white fans are invited to fill Zalgirio Arena and thank Kalnietis for his years of dedication to the team.
“No, I won’t be marking down the days until the end of my career, but I have no doubt that there will be no shortage of emotions on the last day,” the Zalgiris player said with a smile.
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