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Ex-Arizona Wildcats star Lauri Markkanen thanks John McCain for help getting to America

Posted at 1:06 PM, Aug 28, 2018

When he ran for president in 2008, John McCain was asked what his favorite Arizona sports memory was. 

He cheated and named two: The Arizona Diamondbacks' 2001 World Series championship, and the Arizona Wildcats' 1997 men's basketball national title.

McCain was one of the biggest sports fans in the Grand Canyon State, as evidenced by the number of star Valley athletes who will take part in his memorial service Thursday. Along with being seen at D-backs, Cardinals, Suns, Coyotes and ASU games, he was also spotted at the occasional UA game at McKale Center in Tucson.

That's why it was no surprise to learn that McCain was happy to help when a soon-to-be UA basketball star needed a little assistance getting to America in order to play for the Wildcats.

“We’ve got a young guy from Finland named Markkanen, as you know, Lauri Markkanen. He is fantastic. You know how politicians are, they like credit, you know? He was having trouble with his visa. And they went to our office and we helped out with the visa," McCain said in a 2017 interview with ABC and ESPN.

"So therefore, any success, I will take full credit for. That’s classic, huh?”

Markkanen went on to shine in his one and only season at Arizona and was a 2017 First-Team All-Pac-12 selection. He went on to be selected with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and had an outstanding rookie season for the Chicago Bulls.

Shortly after McCain's death last weekend, Markkanen took time to remember McCain and thanked the late senator for his help.

"Rest In peace @SenJohnMcCain, I will forever be grateful for you helping a kid from Finland get a visa to live out my dream of playing basketball in the States," he tweeted.