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Thomsen: Blazers F Nicolas Batum Reflects On His Father

Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum reflects on his father, who passed away while playing professionally in France.

Jonathan Ferrey

Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated interviewed Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum, who opened up about the death of his father, who played professionally in France, and about his infamous groin punch at the Olympics.

His father, Richard Batum, died of a ruptured aneurysm. "My father was a pro basketball player in France," Batum said. "He passed away while playing in the game on the basketball court. I was 2 years old. I was in the crowd with my mom when it happened.

"That's a terrible memory. I think about it sometimes. I just remember he got fouled and went back to the free-throw line to shoot his free throws, and then he was falling down at the free-throw line. I can remember when my father went down, and I can remember later, when I wake up, all of the TV stations around and my mom crying and all the craziness going around. Here I was 2 years old, but I've got memories about it."

When Batum arrived in North America as a 19-year-old to try out for the '08 draft, he heard repeatedly from NBA coaches and executives about the death of Hank Gathers, who was 23 when he suffered a fatal heart attack during a 1990 college game in Los Angeles. "People were scared that the same thing could happen to me," Batum said.

Batum's pre-draft workout with Toronto was suspended when he failed to pass a stress test of his heart. "It became a huge story and it was 10 days before the draft, so I didn't have a lot of time to show that I'm good," he said. "So I did some different [medical] tests in San Antonio and Cleveland and I showed I was OK. It surprised me, like, why now, 10 days before the draft -- 10 days before my goal and my life dream? So that was a tough moment.''

-- Ben Golliver | | Twitter