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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Retired Star Reflects on Past, Present

In the United States, many retired basketball stars make millions in advertising, work as television commentators, or enjoy life on the golf course.

But in Russia, some, such as Nikolai Fisenko, 41, a former forward with Dynamo Moscow, work as security guards.

"When I played professionally, I had a flat, a car and my wife was proud of me," said Fisenko, as he stood near the entrance to the Radisson Slavyanskaya Hotel where he works as a security guard.

Dressed in a dark blue jacket as he walked through the lobby, Fisenko attracted attention with his 2-meter frame, but only diehard fans would have recognized his face.

"In the United States, former basketball stars are celebrities, but here, basketball was never a government sport. Brezhnev loved hockey," Fisenko said.

Still, for Fisenko, who picked up basketball when he was a student at a local physical training college in his native city of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, the sport was a key to a better life and travel abroad.

"If it wasn't for basketball, I would have worked at the plant," he said.

In 1973 when Fisenko was 17, he and his family moved to Moscow.

At that point, Fisenko received a proposal to join Dynamo.

He accepted, and it was a decision that led him to the United States a couple of times for exhibition tournaments.

In fact, during his second trip to the United States, Fisenko received several scholarship offers from U.S. college coaches. To accept them, Fisenko would have had to defect, so he declined.

"We were told to love our motherland and we were afraid to stay behind," Fisenko said.

In 1981, he was honored with the title of sport master of the international class for his participation on a Soviet basketball team that won a European basketball championship in the Czechoslovakia. But Fisenko said he really didn't contribute to the team.

"Most of the time, I was sitting on the bench, drinking beer," he said.

He finally left Dynamo in 1987 because of a leg injury and became a head of a sports division in one of Moscow's army sports clubs, never returning to basketball.

Still, he enjoys watching NBA games on cable television at the hotel, where he started work in 1996. Fisenko said he doesn't regret the 14 trying years he spent with Dynamo, even though his salary was just 200 rubles a month

"Basketball was both my work and my life," he said. "The only thing I feel sorry about is that if I were younger now, I could play for some foreign club."