BEIJING — Last year, Andrei Kirilenko led his Russian men's national basketball team in the 2007 European Championships.

This Friday, he'll lead — in a different way — Russia's entire Olympic sports delegation in the Beijing Summer Games' opening ceremonies.

Kirilenko has been selected to carry the Russian flag as he and his Olympic peers enter into and parade around Beijing's National Stadium.

"Representing in front of the world, you know, is a big honor," said the longtime Utah Jazz forward, "and I will try to do my best."

The selection to carry Russia's flag came as a surprise, and he's a little uncertain about the procedures and protocols.

"I'm not sure how it's going to go, and if they have a practice or something," he said. "I think there's going to be a practice before the whole ceremony."

Kirilenko will be making his second Olympics appearance in Beijing. As a 19-year-old Jazz draft pick who had yet to play in the NBA, he participated in the 2000 Sydney Summer Games.

As the team's standout last summer, he led Russia to the '07 European Championships title, clinching his team a berth in the Beijing Games and a personal eight-year Olympic absence.

And then came the flag-bearing invite.

"It is, like, everybody is asking, like a dream," Kirilenko said, then adding a clarification. "It's more than a dream — you never dream about it. Right now, you get selected and the whole (Russian sports teams') captains support you, and so it's a big honor."


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