Matthew Dellavedova has had a plethora of proud moments during his stellar basketball career, but few matched the feeling he received on Thursday evening when he arrived home in Maryborough.
After two weeks' quarantine in Sydney following his Olympic campaign with the Boomers, Dellavedova returned to his hometown of Maryborough with his wife Anna and young son Anders.
With his history-making Olympic bronze medal on show, his embrace with parents Mark and Leanne was an emotional one.
"(After the Olympics) I was in quarantine (in Sydney) with my wife and son, which was great to spend some time with them after being away for four or five weeks,'' Dellavedova said on Friday.
"I really didn't have as much free time to think about that stuff (the enormity of the Olympic success) like I thought I would going into it (quarantine).
"Coming back to see Mum and Dad...that's when it hit me a bit more.
"Obviously, they were excited to see us, but they were excited to see the medal as well. They've been with me every step of the way and I wouldn't be there without them.
"To be able to give them the medal and put it around their necks as well last night was a pretty cool moment."
Dellavedova's tight-knit family unit was one of the reasons why he decided to return to Victoria to play in the NBL with Melbourne United.
After 12 years in the United States playing college basketball and in the NBA with Cleveland and the Milwaukee Bucks, Dellavedova said he was looking forward to playing in the NBL and the bonuses that come with that in terms of life outside of basketball.
"There were some talks with NBA teams, but nothing concrete at this stage,'' he said.
"Overseas, there were some significant offers, but I always wanted to come back to play here.
"I haven't been back in Australia since those games against the US in 2019.
"I'm excited to spend some time with family, catch up with some mates and I'm definitely excited to get summer in Melbourne after going from winter to winter for about 12 years.
"Winters in Milwaukee and Cleveland are pretty cold, so I think that will be good for the body to go from summer to summer to summer."
The stint with Melbourne United is anything but a retirement tour for Dellavedova, who will celebrate his 31st birthday next month.
The 2016 NBA Championship player with the Cavs wants to return to the NBA.
"My goal is to get back to the NBA and play there. I feel like I have a lot more left in the tank and a lot of things to improve on,'' he said.
"Right now I'm excited to be playing for United and to get down there, get to know the boys and get the season started."
A string of injuries, including concussion and, as a result, a neck complaint, hindered Dellavedova's past 18 months in the NBA with the Cavs.
To return to the NBA, Dellavedova said proving his fitness over a full NBL season with United would be crucial.
"I've got to show that I'm healthy and fit and can put a good season together,'' he said.
"The last couple of years have been interrupted with injuries.
"Being consistent with my shot is probably the main one. I feel like defensively and distributing the ball I feel like I've been doing that at a high level as well."
With a return to the NBA still a goal and the Paris Olympics just three years away, Dellavedova has no plans to retire.
He also has no plans to change his physical style of play.
"I feel like I've got a lot of years left,'' Dellavedova said.
"I'm planning on playing for a long time. That's why I work so hard on my body with lifting and recovery, all of those things, so that I do give myself the opportunity to play for a long time.
"I've played the same way since I started playing basketball in under-8s, I'm not going to change the way I play.
"I've had a couple of unlucky incidents, but when you've been playing since I was four years old, you're going to have some unlucky moments along the way.
"Overall, my whole career in context, I've been extremely lucky, knock on wood, with injuries, so I can't complain there."
Dellavedova steps into a Melbourne United side that is the defending NBL champion.
The expectation to succeed will be high, but it's a challenge the point guard was looking forward to.
🔒 HE'S COMING HOME 🇦🇺— Melbourne United (@MelbUnitedHQ) August 26, 2021
Following his Olympic campaign with the bronze medal-winning Australian Boomers, Matthew Dellavedova is officially locked in to Melbourne United for the 2021-22 season!
More here: https://t.co/vHeppLvBcP
"I'm really excited to be coming to play for United,'' he said.
"It's a great club that does a lot of great development. Coming off a championship, they have such a great culture and I'm looking forward to being a part of that."
The start of the 2021-22 NBL season has been pushed back to mid-November to allow fans a better chance of attending more games as the number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 increases towards the end of the year.
Melbourne United have been regular visitors to Bendigo in recent years and it's expected Bendigo Stadium will push to host at least a pre-season game in a bid to capitalise on Dellavedova's popularity in central Victoria.
That popularity extends across the country with the Boomers' star a crowd favourite, particularly with young fans.
"It's a cool feeling,'' Dellavedova said.
"We come back and play for the Boomers and have one or two games, but it's usually in maybe one or two cities, so not all the kids get the chance to watch the game in person or say 'hello' and give you a high five.
"I'm definitely looking forward to that part...I'm looking forward to seeing all the kids and giving out a lot of high-fives, take a lot of photos and show kids that basketball is the best sport and it can take you all over the world to the NBA, Europe, wherever.
"Most important thing is you can pull on the green and gold and represent Australia at the Olympics."
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