Pro basketball guard powers forward behind the wheel.
Sasha Vujacic is definitely not your typical pro basketball player. He grew up in Maribor, a small city in Slovenia, and never even saw a live National Basketball Association (NBA) game until he put on a Los Angeles Lakers uniform.
And instead of living in a raucous bachelor pad in an exotic neighborhood, he shares a rambling ranch house with his parents, brother and sister on a quiet L.A. residential street. That is until he gets out the car keys.
While owning a Lamborghini, Mercedes-Benz or Audi, or even one of each, is not that atypical of pro athletes, Vujacic’s cars are unique in that he likes the factory look, rather than adding paint and big shiny wheels. It’s also a pretty impressive collection of machinery for a guy who didn’t even have a driver’s license until he came to this country when the Lakers drafted him in 2004.
The only goal I had growing up was to make it to the NBA,” says the lanky 6’7” 195-pound 23-year-old who turns 24 on March 8.
I never imagined living in a house like this or having three cars like these in my driveway.”
Sasha’s mother was a professional volleyball player in the region of Yugoslavia now known as Slovenia, so sports was a way of life growing up in school.
“I started playing basketball when I was 6 and by the time I was 8 or 9, because I was so tall, I played with much older guys. I played hoops 10 hours a day and I watched NBA games on TV during that great era of Magic (Johnson) and Larry Bird. My mom always jokes that I played basketball in her stomach even before I was born because she could feel me kicking and jumping around.”
But since soccer is the sport for most kids around the world, he decided to take a six-month sabbatical from basketball when he was about 10 to concentrate on the more popular endeavor.
“I was so embarrassed when I watched a videotape of me playing soccer with my teammates who were the same age,” Vujacic tells Celebrity Car Magazine. “I was so tall; I was taller than the referee. When I saw that, I went ‘no, no, no, that’s not for me, I have to go with basketball.’”
At age 15, Vujacic moved to Italy and began his professional basketball career a year later. Being in Italy also sparked his interest in automobiles.
“I had an older friend at home who had a Ferrari and I saw how everybody acted around him when they saw his car, but I started to notice cars, like Alfa Romeos and Audis, when I moved to Italy. I was fascinated by the whole science of the automobile, but I had no license, so I could only imagine what it would be like to drive. Then I came (to California) and it’s my life.
“I think every car has it’s own heart, something unique that’s the Audi and not the Mercedes, and that makes the Mercedes different from a Ferrari. It’s amazing, only I have to slow down. I have too many (speeding) tickets. I want to be a good citizen and respect all the laws.”
That’s pretty tough to do when his latest additions are a V10-powered Audi S8 sedan and a Lamborghini LP640.
“I have had my Mercedes CLS 550 about a year and it is beautiful and very fast. But now I have the Audi S8 and it is a beast. It goes like a rocket. Every European has to have an Audi because it is one of the best cars in the world.”
When he was in Europe, Vujacic developed an interest in Formula One racing; he rooted for Ferrari because of Michael Schumacher.
“F1 is unbelievable. Everybody would wear red in Italy to root for Schumacher. He’s a tremendous driver.”
So why was Vujacic taking delivery of a Lamborghini the day he met with Celebrity Car and not a Ferrari?
“The Ferrari is excellent, but I prefer the Lamborghini, how it looks and how it drives. I just love it because it looks like a spaceship. I want to kiss it every time I get inside,” he jokes.
Other than a sound system and other interior upgrades, the cars remain basically stock.
“Probably I’m too old school, but I like then they way they come from the factory. Not even special wheels. I think the beauty of it is how the factory does things.”
His eyes light up at the mention of attending a race driver school, but right now he spends his free time learning golf. One reason he bought the Audi S8 is because the trunk could hold his clubs.
“I love basketball and could spend 24/7 at the gym, but you (need) something to get away and for me that is golf. I just learned how to hit the ball straight, so I’m definitely an amateur.”
He might be having fun with golf and cars and the California lifestyle, but Vujacic has not lost sight of why he came to the United States.
“I didn’t come here for the weather or a vacation. I have one more year in my contract with the Lakers and my goal is to be a starter (a player in the starting lineup). I will continue to work really hard to meet that goal.”