Lauri Markkanen calls in to begin military service in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday.
Utah Jazz All-Star forward Lauri Markkanen is undertaking military service in Finland following the conclusion of his NBA season.
Earlier this week, the Jazz posted a photo on social media of Markkanen reporting for military service, while the 25-year-old uploaded a photo of his new buzz cut to Instagram, reassuring followers that his “curls will be back.”
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) shoots against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half of Game 2 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Tuesday, April 18, 2023, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Speaking to reporters about a week after Utah was eliminated from playoff contention, Markkanen said that military service is mandatory in Finland before the age of 30.
“I just figured if we’re not going to playing in the postseason this year, then it’s going to be a good time to do it now, instead of just postponing it and then eventually having to do it in a time that wouldn’t work so well for me,” Markkanen explained.
He added that he doesn’t know exactly how long he will spend on military service over the coming months, explaining that he has the option to complete it across two summers.
“I definitely don’t want it to affect the basketball part, so we’ll figure out how to do a combination,” said Markkanen.
Markkanen starts his military service at the Finnish Defence Forces Sports School in Helsinki.
Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva/AFP/Getty Images
The towering forward has enjoyed a career season this year, averaging 25.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
On Wednesday, he was announced as a finalist for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award alongside the New York Knicks’ Jalen Brunson and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
CNN has contacted the Jazz and Markkanen’s representative for further comment on his military service.
Finland was welcomed as the 31st member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) earlier this month, marking a major shift in the security landscape in northeastern Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
CNN’s Jill Martin contributed to reporting.