Basketball star Armenak Alajajian became a philanthropist in Canada
Armenak Alajajian One of the most famous European basketball players of all time passed away at Scarborough General Hospital on December 4, 2017. Armenak Alajajian was four-time European champion, winner of the European Championship Cup both as a player and as a coach, Silver Medalist of the 18th Olympic Games in Tokyo (1964), eight-time Champion of USSR, Honourary Master of Sport of the USSR and Honourary Coach of Russia. As a world-renowned player and coach, he brought many innovations to the game. He was a star virtuoso playmaker of his time. Mr. Alajajian was honoured for his outstanding philanthropy in support of Armenian and Canadian causes. He also established an Alajajian Cup for basketball championships in Moscow and Yerevan.
Mr. Alajajian was born on Dec. 25, 1930, at Alexandria, Egypt, where his family settled in the aftermath of the Armenian genocide. According to a niece, his mother had been found by the Red Cross wandering the Anatolian countryside and was sent to an orphanage in Greece.
After the Second World War, his family heeded a call for repatriation and settled in Yerevan, Soviet Armenia.
Mr. Alajajian made his Olympic debut at Tokyo in 1964, scoring five points against Canada in a preliminary game. In the final against the United States, he sank three of eight shots, many of those coming from a distance in an era before the threepoint shot. The United States maintained an undefeated record in Olympic play by prevailing over the Soviets, 73-59, in a chippy, physical game typical of such Cold War showdowns.
After winning European championships as both an athlete and a coach, Mr. Alajajian followed family members by immigrating to Canada, where he could only find work in Toronto as a parking-lot attendant. He was given entrée to the diamond and jewellery business after a fellow Armenian was startled to recognize so famous an athlete in so humble a position. At 44, he also became basketball coach of the Hawks at Humber College, where he registered in an English program to better communicate with his players.
Mr. Alajajian, who died at 86, played and coached amateur basketball in Toronto for two decades. The diamond merchant was known in the Armenian-Canadian community for his philanthropy. He was inducted into the Armenian General Benevolent Union Sports Hall of Fame in Toronto last year.
In Toronto, he served as head coach of the senior Armenian General Benevolent Union team. The group also benefited from his charitable giving, as did the Holy Trinity Armenian Church, where his funeral service ultimately was held.
Sources: The Globe & Mail, The Star