Usually when something was long ago and it feels like it was yesterday, I will come up with ‘man time really flies’. In a way it is hard to believe that I saw my first overseas basketball game live almost 20 years ago in Frankfurt. That was my introduction to German basketball and with me the rest is history. I’m still reporting and commentating games since that time. I recall that my first game was game 1 during the finals between the Opel Skyliners against GHP Bamberg as they were named then with legends like Dirk Bauermann, Demond Mallet and Steffen Hamann just to name a few, but there were many more. I would go on to see game 3 and then the exciting game 5 which would be the Opel Skyliners first BBL title. Even if time does fly, that really was a long time ago. What can I remember from game 5? Not much. I do know where I sat. I sat across from the visitor bench as it is today in the Fraport arena. I also remember taking a pic with Tyrone Ellis after the title win and one distant thing. I was sitting surprisingly in an area where many Bamberg fans were. They were known as very loud fanatics that loved their team. There is a reason why Bamberg is called Freak city. There was this passionate Bamberg fan that was chanting this name seemingly for the whole game. After a while the name was ringing in my head. I had had another experience like that during the 1989 Davis Cup semi-final match in Munich as Germany with Boris Becker faced Team USA with Andre Agassi and this German fan was chanting Eric Jelen the whole match. So back to the Bamberg fan. He was chanting Gert Kullamae and was wearing his jersey. Kullamae is a highly decorated player that had a 20 year professional career that saw him win 7 league titles in his homeland Estonia as well as titles in Holand, Belgium and Russia. He played in Bamberg from 2001-2004 and then closed out his career with Den Bosh and Tartu Rock and currently is a coach with BC Parnu. He was best known for shooting out the lights. Back in Bamberg he was teammates with the Latvian lion Uvis Helmanis and it isn’t a surprise that both have produced off spring. Helmanis son Kris plays in Germany with Pro A team Tuebingen while Kullamae son Kristian is playing this season in Lithuania. When it comes to ex players seeing their sons play professionally, then I can say time flies. When I saw my first basketball experience in Germany and saw Gert Kullame play, son Kristian was only 5 years old. It’s only obvious that he doesn’t remember much from his father’s days in Bamberg. ‘. I was too young. I have seen some videos from the tape when he was playing in Bamberg. He was a really good shooter, this you can notice immediately. But I don’t remember much more. But I remember more my father’s games at the end of the career when he played in Estonian club named Tartu Rock’, remembered Kristian Kullamaee (194-PG-1999). He won’t disagree with anyone saying that his dad was a massive help in his basketball development over the years. ‘He has been huge part why I play basketball. Being in the practice gym with him as a small kid while he had practice probably from there I got the love for the game. When I was 8 years old I went to basketball practice and then everything started. He has never been like a ‘real’ coach for me. There has been other people. But he is more like in a ‘helper’ role. Whenever I need advice or feeling like practice individually he has got my back and helped me out. Especially in the summer. Because he was an excellent shooter we have practiced a lot of shooting coming off screens and off the dribble. Various of ways. But most important I would say is that I can just listen for his advice/experience. Because he has been through it all and now I try to go through it as well. I think it’s a huge advantage for me that I have father like this who has seen it all’, warned Kristian Kullamaee.
The celebration in Frankfurt after the game 5 buzzer sounded and the Opel Skyliners defetaed GHP Bamberg for the 2004 BBL title
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Tyrone Ellis after the game 5 title win in Frankfurt in 2004
Kristian Kullame who lists Lebron, Jordan, Kareem, and Magic on his personal NBA Mount Rushmore was born on May 25th, 1999 and is a 194cm guard. He began his basketball career with Audentese SG/Noortekoondis (Alexela KML). After getting his feet wet in the basketball world in his homeland, he then decided to take his first job abroad and went to Germany a place where his dad had celebrated success 15 years earlier. He played for BiG Oettinger Rockets Gotha (Germany-ProA) and had to experience some growing pains at first as he only averaged 3,9ppg, but got more playing time with the second team OeTTINGER Rockets Gotha 2 (Germany-2.Regionalliga) averaging 20.7ppg. Even if he didn’t get many Pro A minutes that season, he was very fortunate to have had defense specialist Max DiLeo as a teammate who was instrumental for him in his first season abroad. ‘I remember DiLeo really well. He was already then a really good player and even better person. He helped me as 17year old guy a lot. But the most what I remember about him is just with what kind of intensity and will he played on the defensive end He made all those small hustle plays for the team. The things you don’t see in a stat sheet. He was a real team player and important piece. Both on the court and in the locker room as well’, stated Kristian Kullamaee. In his second season he got his first taste of the easyCredit BBL as Gotha had moved up. He only played 11 games averaging 3,5ppg and 1,3rpg, but he will never forget playing his first BBL game against his dad’s ex team Bamberg and scoring 10 points. ‘It was definitely a cool experience. We had problems with injuries that time so I was lucky to get the chance. Bamberg was at the time a Euroleague team as well so playing vs them was cool, expressed Kristian Kullamaee. He once again also played for Gotha’s second team in the Regionalliga averaging : 21.0ppg, 5.7rpg, 4.0apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 56.4%, 3PT: 36.3%, FT: 75.0%, In his third season, he went to play for Baunach and made his break through in the Pro A averaging 13.4ppg, 2.7rpg, 3.5apg, FGP: 53.7%, 3PT: 31.9%, FT: 77.2%. He scored in double figures in 22 of 29 games including a 34 point explosion against Trier and super games against Artland with 24 points and 10 dimes and 24 points and 14 assists against Tuebingen back to back. He looks back fondly at his time in Germany from 2016-2019 which was a time where his game developed well. ‘This was my first time out of Estonia. I left Estonia when I was 17. In those next 3 years I was able to play in many different leagues started from BBL and finishing u19. It was such a very valuable time and from there I got the first taste what it looks like to be a professional basketball player and how does this basketball world really works’, stressed Kristian Kullamaee.
The Eurocup guard who lists Doncic and Giannis as the toughest players he has ever faced then left Germany and made the next step in his career playing 2 years in the Spanish Leb Gold. One would have thought that he might try to stay in Germany and go to another BBL team, but his goal was something totally different. ‘After my contract in Germany was finished I signed with a Spanish agency and my goal was to make it to ACB. So the decision to move to Spain came from there. So everything was really logical for me. I don’t remember that much if I had offers from Germany because I had a goal to move to Spain’, expressed Kristian Kullamaee. In his first season he played for Real Canoe Madrid (Spain-LEB Gold 11.9ppg, 2.2rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 55.5%, 3PT: 36.8%, FT: 75.8% and in his second season played for Palmer Alma Mediterranea Palma (LEB Gold) averaging 16.0ppg, 3.3rpg, 2.3apg, Steals-3 (1.6spg), FGP: 49.1%, 3PT: 31.2%, FT: 88.9%. In his 2 years in the Leb Gold he played 53 games and scored in double figures in 40 games. He had masterful games against Real Canoe with 27 points and hit Granada and Oviedo for 25 points apiece and Breogan for 24 points. Playing in the Leb Gold was the right decision in his basketball journey at that time. ‘I think Leb gold for a young player is a good league. I went there when I was 20 so definitely I improved a lot. I had in both teams amazing coaching staffs with who I had time to practice a lot of hours. Because in Leb there is mostly 1 game a week it gives you time to develop individually a lot. So I tried to really get myself ready for next steps’, stated Kristian Kullamaee.
The Estonian national player has played with many great teammates and has special love for a few of them. ‘I would play with 3 guards. My first guard would be Tyrese Rice. I was in a Brose Bamberg youth program so I got the chance to share the court with him in practice and that was amazing. He is one of the most skilled guards I have ever seen. The second guard is Vitor Benite from Burgos. And the third is Retin Obasohan with whom I was in Erfurt and who now is in Asvel. And for big guys I would put first Augustin Rubit. I was with him also in Bamberg. He was definitely the most skilled big I have shared the court with even if it was only in practice. And the other big guy would be Estonian legend Kristian Kangur who was also in Euroleague for some years. Playing in national team with him was amazing. I learnt a lot from him. He is a true professional’, warned Kristian Kullamaee. He has played with many great players in the Estonian national team. He played with the youth U-16, U-18 and U-20 teams. He already had a lot of success in early years winning the Euro Gold at the U-16 and Bronze at the Euro 18 and was always a key figure on the team. He made his debut in the men’s Estonian national team in 2018 and has seen how the country has made strides in the last years with a talented core of guys with Henri Drell, Maik Kalev Kotsar and himself. ‘Basketball in Estonia has a really interesting times right now. We have plenty of talented young players who try to get to the highest stage in Europe. I think Eurobasket 2022 showed it. We have potential to do really big things. So we need to hope that all players find teams where they have an important role and can develop. We definitely have potential for it’, warned Kristian Kullamaee. One player that people should keep an eye on is current NCAA player Kerr Krissa who is playing at Arizona. ‘He is definitely a really talented player. His father was a professional player as well so you can see basketball is in his DNA. I am happy for him that he has such a big role in such a big college like Arizona, I’m sure he will get most out of it. Playing with him made my life way easier because I could play off the ball as well. Without him we lack in national team little bit creating off the dribble so he helped in such a part a lot. I’m sure that in the next games we already know even more what to expect about each other on the floor. It is definitely important for us to have him on the national team’, stressed Kristian Kullamaee. He was part of the 2022 Euro Cinderella run where Estonia posted a 3-2 record and lost to Greece. He had a solid Euro averaging 7,0ppg,2,8rpg and 4,6apg. He scored 14 points in a huge 73-70 victory over Croatia. His biggest moment was playing against Luka Doncic in an exhibition game prior to the Euro 2022. ‘Playing against one of the best players in the world is amazing. Getting a chance to compete vs such level player is definitely a thing I will remember all my life. He is so skilled on the ball and the pace he is playing at. You never can force him out of his pace is crazy. Everything looks so easy and slow for him on the court’, warned Kristian Kullamaee.
Last season the versatile guard who believes that Luka Doncic could one day become the GOAT if he stays healthy made the next giant step in his career reaching the best club league in Europe with the Spanish ACB playing with Hereda San Pablo Burgos. He played only 15 games averaging 3.3ppg, 1.1apg; and played 4 Basketball Champions League games averaging 8.8ppg, 1.8rpg. It is a time that will be on his resume and he has to accept it. ‘This season was not a success story for me and for the team as well. I think everything happens for a reason. I don’t want to focus on it too much. I would rather focus on the present because like I said I have an amazing chance here in Lietkabelis’, said Kristian Kullamaee. There was a very competitive guard rotation in Burgos with Eddie Jarrell, Alex Renfroe and Tyus Mcghee and he got lost in the shuffle. ‘Because in ACB and Champions league there is a foreigner rule somebody needed to be out of the roster. As we had too many foreigners somebody was out. Competition for these spots was really big. So mostly I was the guy who did not make it. Because I competed with amazing players. I learnt a lot from players like Benite and Renfroe for example. Being with them on a daily bases as a 22 year old player gives you a lot. For sure valuable time and it helped me a lot to become more mature player’, remembered Kristian Kullamaee. He had some solid games like scoring 10 points against Manresa, but he will never forget putting up 8/4/4 stats in his ACB debut against Real Madrid in a losing cause. ‘ One of my goals was to be able to play in ACB and I was able to fulfil it. As it was vs such an historic club as Real Madrid made it even more special. Definitely something I will remember all my life. Being able to play vs such players like Walter Tavares for example was really cool’, added Kristian Kullamaee.
This season he made the jump to Panevezys 7bet-Lietkabelis (Lithuania-LKL) and even if it may seem like a little step back from the ACB to the Eurocup, sometimes one has to make a step back in order to gain 2 steps ahead in the future. Just ask Kameron Taylor who played his rookie season in Germany in the Pro A and then took a step back and played Pro B and then within 3 seasons reached the Euroleague with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Taylor will never forget just how valuable his time was with the Dragons Rhondorf in his career. The Estonian guard has made another new break through this season in Lithuania once again. ‘I can say I’m really happy for it. I think it’s the right spot for me at this point of my career. My goal was to play in good competition, what Eurocup and LKL definitely is. So I try to get the most out of it. And yes I agree that I am experiencing a real breakthrough. Because I have never played such an important role in such a competition. I have played important roles in Spain and Germany second divisions but this is something different. I think I have played alright but I personally think I have even more potential individually and as a team too. Hopefully in the end of the season I can say that I made an even bigger step forward both as a team and individually. So definitely exciting time right now for me’, warned Kristian Kullamaee. His game has totally taken off in Lithuania’s first division where he is averaging 14,0ppg, 3,3rpg, 3,6apg and 1,1spg while shooting 46% from outside while in the Eurocup he is also holding his own averaging 11,4ppg, 2,7rpg, 3,9apg and 1,9spg. He has benefited totally from the collective team ball that the team has played and ex Alba berlin player Nenad Cenak who is the head coach. ‘He was the person who invited me here this season. He saw potential in me and I really appreciate that he gave this amazing opportunity for me. I try to make the most out of it and help him/team as much I Can. I would say that he really knows how to give player freedom and keep him in the system at the same time. I think this is the biggest key. Everything looks really natural with him’, stressed Kristian Kullamaee. The guard keeps climbing the basketball ladder and his focus and desire and hunger will always remain massive, because despite having a famous dad, nothing was ever given to him in his basketball career. ‘I think nothing in life is for granted. You need to work hard to achieve your goals. And this is not only in basketball, in life overall as well. My goal was always to become a professional basketball player since I was really young. I have been in the basketball gym since a very young age, because of my father. So desire for basketball came really naturally to me and I have always been trying to get most out of it’, warned Kristian Kullamaee. After 3 years being away from Germany, he is back again facing ratiopharm Ulm in a Eurocup game this week. He will be motivated and ready to show everyone in Germany how his game has developed since then and will continue to keep the Kullamae name in top standing in the basketball circles.