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Magic's Gortat honors Polish president

Posted Apr 11 2010 2:33PM

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Orlando Magic center Marcin Gortat had more important issues on his mind Sunday than basketball.

The native of Poland paid tribute to his homeland's president, who was killed along with 95 others in a plane crash in Russia. Gortat wrote the number of the fatal flight on his sneakers before the Magic played the Cleveland Cavaliers and wrote President Lech Kaczynski's name on the tape around his wrist.

"It's very sad," Gortat said. "There were a lot of people putting our country on the right path to become one of the strongest and most powerful countries in Europe. Obviously, we pray for them."

Kaczynski and dozens of political, military and religious leaders were killed in the crash. They were traveling to Russia to honor 22,000 Polish officers slain by the Soviet secret police in 1940.

Gortat's father, Janusz, is a retired Army officer who knew Kaczynski before he became president in 2005. Gortat, who learned of the crash through multiple text messages from family and friends in Poland, said he knew "two or three" of the dignitaries who died.

"It's a tough loss for all of us," he said.

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