Basketball: 'Family' man Vukona 300 not out and powering on

By Kris Shannon

Breakers veterans Mika Vukona and Tom Abercrombie are ecstatic after the 2015 win over the Cairns Taipans. Picture / Jason Dorday
Breakers veterans Mika Vukona and Tom Abercrombie are ecstatic after the 2015 win over the Cairns Taipans. Picture / Jason Dorday

Mika Vukona was one of the Breakers' first recruits, he played in their first game and was on the court for their first championship.

In many ways, the story of his playing career is inseparable from the club he captains so it's appropriate that, tonight at the North Shore Events Centre, Vukona will become the first man to play 300 games in Breakers colours.

The 34-year-old has always been agnostic when it comes to personal milestones but, with that great, big round number looming against the Sydney Kings, Vukona was given no choice but the reflect on the elements behind the achievement.

Three-hundred games for one club speaks to his skill, yes, and also his longevity, especially when factoring in a two-year spell for two clubs across the Tasman. But mainly, in typically selfless fashion, Vukona attributes his accomplishment to those around him.

From fellow foundation players Paul Henare and Dillon Boucher - now coach and general manager of the Breakers - to a support staff that may have changed in personnel but never wavered in its care for the players, Vukona knows why and how he still calls the Kiwi club home.

Mika Vukona in action for the Breakers during the 2005 season. Photo /Getty
Mika Vukona in action for the Breakers during the 2005 season. Photo /Getty

"Family," he said by way of an explanation of his loyalty. "I know everybody keeps saying that, but when you're in a good environment and a good family situation, you always want to be there. There's always times where it's hard, but it's just awesome to be here.

"And I guess winning also makes a massive difference and has a big influence on you. When you keep winning championships, you just want to keep coming back and getting more."

Ah, yes, the winning. It's certainly doubtful Vukona would have pulled on the singlet for 12 seasons if the side were regularly finishing near the bottom of the ladder, as the Breakers did during his first five-year stint. But it's unarguable the Breakers never would have enjoyed such a sustained run of success, as they have during his second seven-year term, had Vukona been absent.

Leading teammates through emphatic actions on the court more than rousing words in the locker room, Vukona was integral to each of the four championship banners that will be hanging from the NSEC rafters tomorrow. But such influence merely came naturally.

"It's not something that you try and force," Vukona said. "I learnt that pretty quickly from Nenad Vucinic the first time I captained the Tall Blacks - he said I was shit, and he just said, 'let everything come to you'.

"In this environment, it just allows you to do your own thing and lead in the way you know how to, which is by your actions."

Vukona is contracted through the end of next season but, with a level of durability that has made him almost impervious to injuries, he wasn't about to rule out one more milestone in a career full of them.

"Another 300," he said with a laugh. "Let's go."

- NZ Herald

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