200 miles east of Los Angeles, on land dotted with grape vines and olive trees, Sasha Vujacic is in the wine making business. He is just as proud to be an American citizen, sworn in over the summer, as he is of his award winning Bordeaux. Vujacic has spent more time in the United States than his home country of Slovenia. So much of Vujacic’s life in the United States has been blessed. The hero of the 2010 NBA Finals is still greeted with joy when seen around town. Sasha- whose birth name is Aleksander- drilled two free throws to ice the Lakers 16th title against the hated Celtics in 2010.
When Sasha went to the free throw line in Game 7, he hadn’t scored. The Lakers led by two and with eleven seconds left, Ray Allen wrapped up Vujacic who had played just five minutes up until then. Camera angles zeroed in on the 26 year old’s face as he went to the line. One miss and the Celtics and Ray Allen could tie the score. Two misses and disaster. Vujacic breathed out his mouth, his bottom lip quivering as he sank the first free throw. After he icily sank the second, Doc Rivers called a timeout.
Laker fans don’t forget achievement under stress, particularly when it leads to a title. Vujacic told Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times “Thank God for those free throws. Doors opened for me after that. Those were the two free throws I dreamed of as a kid. That was the opportunity I had worked for, and it meant so much that my teammates and my coaches wanted me to have the ball in that moment.”
In fact, Phil Jackson inserted Vujacic into the game for just that moment. To get fouled. To make two free throws.
Aleksander Vujacic was drafted with the 27th pick in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Los Angles Lakers and played 420 games for them. Though a mercurial shooter, 39% over his career, he had the knack for making uncontested three point shots when it counted. A fan favorite because he played hard, had mad hair game, nicknamed himself “The Machine, and was joyous, Vujacic loved Los Angeles and his Lakers life.
His best statistical year as a Laker, 2007-08, he was a 40% three point shooter. A year after his grand Lakers moment in the Finals, he posted a career high in points, nearly 10 per game, most of which were with the Nets after the Lakers traded him.
Vujacic had a short stint with the Clippers- 2 games- and played 103 games with the Knicks. He went to Europe. In Turkey, he made the All-Star team and was the MVP in 2012. Last year in Italy, his team Auxilium Torino, won the Italian Cup. (The club declared bankruptcy in 2019).
Today, Sasha promotes his winery located in Paso Robles, run by his parents and siblings. Slovenia loves wine and it was a natural fit for Vujacic and his family. “As much as it was my dream to come to L.A. and win with the Lakers, the silent side of the dream was to have a family wine business with my mom, dad, brother and sister.”
Aleksander wines (750ml) retail at $75.00. It’s aggregated critic score is 90/100. In 2014, S&G Estate (S&G is abbreviated for Sasha and his brother Goran) won a gold medal in the Dallas Wine Competition. But the name Aleksander is one Sasha has always hated. After defending himself in middle school when teased about his name, he started going by the name Sasha.
Now Sasha wants another crack at the NBA with a contender who needs a three point shooter. He works out with DeAndre Jordan every summer and Jordan is impressed enough to believe Sasha has a role in today’s NBA specialization. He is in shape and is in the gym working on his threes.
“I love the game so much and I don’t want to walk away yet. I’m in the best shape of my life right now. I’m 35 but I feel 25. As long as I have that desire and fire inside of me, I’m going to keep pushing.”