Long-time Great Britain international Pops Mensah-Bonsu has confirmed his retirement from basketball.

The London-born forward, who won the last of his 42 caps at the 2012 Olympics, is to join the NBA Players Association as a regional representative, putting to use the experience gained in a career that took him from Tottenham to Toronto and many stops in between.

A popular and engaging personality, the gains could have been greater perhaps, if not for a persistent knee injury that appeared to do little to limit his energy on the court, and a nomadic career path that often saw promising stints at some of Europe’s top clubs interspersed with one more opportunity in the NBA.

“The game of basketball, though at times unfair, has been good to me,” he said, in a statement posted on his Facebook page. “I have always been a sportsman who took pride in not complaining or feeling sorry for himself. At a young age I learned that you have to play the hand you are dealt!

“I have been blessed enough to experience a lot playing professional basketball. From playing in the NBA, internationally, NCAA D1, to representing my country in the Olympics, I have accomplished a great deal. Although I have always set lofty goals, being one of the few to make it from Great Britain to this level is an achievement in itself.

“I appreciate all the good and bad times, the highs and lows. The many times when my back was against the wall, I was not only able to show the world, but most importantly myself, where my character lies. Basketball and the relationships I’ve gained from it have molded me into the man I am today. I am glad to say that I used the game as a tool to help me better myself as a person and player.”

There were five teams and six spells across the Atlantic following a superb collegiate stay at George Washington University, with his best NBA spell coming 2008-9 with Toronto where, over 19 games, he averaged 5.1 points and 5.4 rebounds.

He joined CSKA Moscow mid-way through the 2009-10 campaign and helped the Russian club to reach the Euroleague Final Four and later joined Turkey’s Besiktas in 2011, lifting the Turkish Cup and starring in their victorious conquest of the Eurochallenge trophy, as well becoming the MVP of the league’s All Star Game.

Mensah-Bonsu’s career, which began at Hackney White Heat as one of a cluster of future stars mentored by the late Joe White, ended enforcedly on a low following a two-year ban handed out for a doping infraction incurred last season at AEK Athens for use of a medication proscribed for Attention Deficit Disorder.

But at the relatively youthful age of 32,  and with some of his potential unfulfilled, he will still leave basketball with a reputation as one of the UK’s top performers of all time and a key figure in the inspirational group that took Great Britain from international irrelevance to a proud competitive force by the time the Olympics passed through his home city.

Pic: Mansoor Ahmed/BB

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