JR Holden hitting a jumper at the 2007 EuroBasket - Photo by FIBA Europe

heinnews’ David Hein caught up with good buddy JR Holden, former Olympian, EuroBasket champion, Euroleague winner and all around sports fan. They chatted about his departure from basketball and CSKA Moscow; what he’s doing nowadays and how you can follow him; a wide array of U.S. sports subjects; and coming back to Europe – as a fan.

heinnews: So, last time we saw you on the court, you were winning your ninth straight Russian league title with CSKA Moscow. How was it to go out with at least that title?
Holden: It felt good to leave the game with a title and to play very well in the championship series. I felt like MJ in ‘98. Lol.

heinnews: That 2010-11 season was a bit of a disappointment with CSKA not making it out of the Regular Season of the Euroleague. How tough was that and what do you think happened there?
Holden: It was disappointing that the club brought in the wrong coach to lead a veteran team. I don’t live in the past but I guess a bad season was due for CSKA. Now, they are back on top where they belong. Attitude and winning reflects leadership. So, that is the answer to that question :-).

heinnews: With the luxury of hindsight, what did you European experience – something you probably never planned as a young guy out of Bucknell – mean to you now?
Holden: I haven’t really sat back and reflected on my career yet, but I can honestly say, the ego side of me says that I never thought I would arguably be the best player to ever come over and have a career in Europe. No other American has impacted a country and won as much as I did. Like we say in the States sometimes, stats don’t lie. LOL. But the humble side of me says, it was just an honor to play professional basketball. To be given an opportunity to play ball and play it at such a high level is just humbling that LATVIA, OOSTENDE(IN BELGIUM), AEK (IN GREECE), AND CSKA gave me an opportunity to do something special…that is play basketball for a living.

heinnews: After the season you retired from basketball, what was the deciding factor in your decision to hang up the sneakers?
Holden: First probably my heart condition scared me a little bit.  Second, I know what it takes to play at a high level. I didn’t know if I could keep spending my summers waking up at 6am to work out to stay in “greatness” shape.

heinnews: CSKA Moscow gave you and Trajan Langdon a pretty nice farewell. What did you think of that?
Holden: Moscow is my second home so it’s always special to get love at home. I will always have a special place in my heart for CSKA and the people in Russia. They are my extended family. So I just want to say THANK YOU.

heinnews: How nice was it for you to retire at the same time as your long-time running mate Trajan?
Holden: That wasn’t really the plan but Trajan is like a brother from another mother.  So, it was just special to play with him for 6 years.

heinnews: You had already written the book Blessed Footsteps before your retirement, what were you thinking of doing after giving up the game?
Holden: Not really sure what I will do.  I am just enjoying the time with my family and doing a little traveling.  If anybody has some work for me or ideas for me, let me know :-).  I’m available…

heinnews: We hear you are doing some radio talkshow stuff on blogtalkradio. What exactly is that and how can people listen to you and when?
Holden: You can listen to the shows live Wednesday at 7PM or Sunday at 7:30PM east coast USA time or listen any time you have some free time on my site www.teninc.me or go to www.blogtalkradio/jonrobholden.com and listen to the shows.  They are simply about life. We talk about religion, sports, relationships, traveling, anything goes. It’s fun and entertaining but real and honest.

heinnews: What else is in the works?
Holden: I have some merchandise on my site that people may really like. USB bands and T-shirts that are real cool. Outside of that, just brainstorming.

heinnews: How much, if at all, do you miss the game? Or what aspects of it?
Holden: I miss competing.  There is nothing like getting ready for a big game on the road and all the fans are cheering against you.  I miss the competition the most.

heinnews: How much European basketball are you watching? Who do you think will win the EL Final Four? You think Kirilenko, Siskauskas and the boys can do it? What about Barcelona?
Holden: I don’t watch any EL basketball. Too hard for me right now. I do follow CSKA though. I think CSKA can win it all. They are the best team. They are the Kentucky of EL right now. But we all know, the FF anything can happen. Barcelona and Pana are always a threat but I like CSKA to win it all.

heinnews:  We know you’re a big NFL fan. So, let’s get some expert opinions on a couple of items.
– You’re starting a franchise, who do you take – Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III?
Holden: RG III. You can’t go wrong with either one but I believe RG III has more upside than Luck. If I’m the Colts, I take Luck because he is along the lines of a Peyton Manning as far as personality, character, etc. But if I am starting a franchise, RG III would be my guy.

heinnews:  – How will Peyton Manning do in Denver?
Holden: Peyton is one of the best to ever play the game at QB. If he gets healthy, he will be highly successful.

heinnews:  – Who will win more games as quarterback in New York – Sanchez or Tebow? Can Tim Tebow work with the Jets?
Holden: Sanchez has lost his job. LOL. I believe that Tebow will be the starting QB on that team by mid season next year. Tebow is a winner and I just feel that Rex Ryan loves his toughness. Sanchez is good and I like him, so who knows. Right now, I take Tebow to win more games in New York. Yes, they can co-exist and Tebow will work in New York.

heinnews:  – Do you think the penalties for the Saints in the bounty affair were fair?
Holden: No, I don’t think all the penalties were fair. I don’t believe in hurting a player on purpose but I do believe in a fierce game and if it is incentive driven to hit harder, by all means, as a fan I am going to love it. I believe a lot of teams do it and have done it. The Saints just got caught.

heinnews: Chances that your Pittsburgh Pirates finish above .500 for the first time since 1992?
Holden: I am die hard Pittsburgh fan so I will say 51%. LOL. They won’t though.

heinnews: How happy are you that Andrew McCutchen was given a long-term deal?
Holden: He deserved it and it’s about time we paid a player to stay. Maybe this is the start of something new, fresh and exciting.

heinnews: You like Magic Johnson be a good influence for the LA Dodgers?
Holden: Yes, whatever Magic does as a business man turns out well. I think the Dodgers will be good and his influence will be a positive one.

heinnews: What do you think about the NCAA Final Four? Kentucky’s kids mature enough to win it all?
Holden: I picked Kentucky to win it from the beginning. They have been the best team all year and now they are one game away from capturing Calipari first title.

heinnews: And the women’s Final Four? Brittney finally get her title after losing in the Elite Eight to Texas A&M last year?
Holden: Yes, Brittney is a special player. She will win it all this year with Baylor. She is on a mission and that team has been a beast all year. Undefeated in any sport is difficult and they are two games away from doing something special.

heinnews: What about the NBA? Who is your favorite to win the trophy?
Holden: I don’t have a favorite but I am a big supporter of D. Rose. He has been hurt this year but if he gets healthy, I like their chances. Miami will always be in the mix. You can never go against the Big 3. As for the West, who knows? I like Oklahoma City but the Spurs and Lakers will contend as well.

heinnews: Do you have any plans to come back to Europe at all? Visit some games or anything?
Holden: Yes, I am going to Belgium next week to watch the Cup Final Four and I will probably go to the FF in Turkey.

heinnews: Why don’t you come to Istanbul for the Final Four? You could sell your book there. And I’m sure the fans would love to see you there.
Holden: I will not sell my book there but I do plan on coming to watch some great EL basketball.

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