Paora Winitana

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Paul Ramiha “Pāora” Winitana is a former professional basketball player and competed for New Zealand in the 2004 Olympic Games held in Athens, Greece, where his team, the Tall Blacks placed tenth. Previous to the Olympics, the Tall Blacks placed fourth in the 2002 FIBA World Championships. In 2006, they won silver at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

He was born on December 6, 1976 in Hastings, New Zealand. He was first introduced to basketball when he went to church with some friends when he was fourteen years old. Four years later he played his first game with the Hastings Boys’ High School A team and scored 96 points, a New Zealand secondary school record. The following year he played for the Church College of New Zealand team that won the national secondary school championships. The following year (1996) he was selected to play for North Harbour Heat in the New Zealand National Basketball League. He won Rookie of the Year. Preferring to serve as a full-time Missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he turned down several opportunities to play basketball in the United States. While serving, he also missed competing in the 2000 Olympic Games.

During his professional career, Winitana also played for the Hawke’s Bay Hawks and the Christchurch Cougars NBL teams. He led the Hawks to a 2006 NBL championship. He also played for the Australian National Basketball League for the Adelaide 36ers and the New Zealand Breakers. He has been honored many times, including most valuable player in 2002 and 2004 finals and most valuable player in the 2007 championships. In 2006 and 2012 he was named NBL All-Star Five.

Since 2005 when he was ordained a bishop, Winitana has elected not to play in games on Sunday. He ended his professional career at the end of the 2016 season.

In 2012, he founded a basketball academy with teammate Paul Henare. Winitana participates in the New Zealand Olympic Committee Athlete Support Development Programme. Winitana and his wife, Tia, are the parents of five children.