Arvydas Sabonis, a Hall of Fame center from Lithuania listing at 7’ 3” 292 lbs, entered the NBA at the ripe ole age of 31. A point in a player’s career when most are thinking about retirement. Despite Father Time’s plan, Sabonis started his rookie year in 1995-96 for the Portland Trailblazer, becoming one of the most dominant what-ifs that changed the NBA’s outlook on international players. His success paved the ways for the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, and Yao Ming. Big men who were not conventional. Someone that is over 7 feet who can shoot outside four feet, pass, and combined fitness and power in a way that American centers to this day cannot replicate.
A rookie, Sabonis had an immediate impact on the NBA and the Portland Trailblazers. During his first year in the NBA, he produced an average of 14.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 54% FG, while playing less than 24 minutes per game, eventually helping his team make playoffs. This trend would continue for every year of his NBA career from 1995-2003, only missing the playoffs once in 2002 (Wikipedia).
As mentioned previously, the most impressive feat of his short but successful NBA career was the fact that he was able to produce at such a time when many players began to fade. His overall success had lead many to wonder what could have been should he spent his prime years playing in the US. Experts such as ESPN’s David Thorpe estimated that he could have been Top 4 ever (Thorpe). Fellow Hall of Famer, teammate, and NBA Champion Clyde Drexler viewed that should Sabonis played in the US, he would have brought five or six championships for the Blazers. Someone who could pass, shoot three pointers, post up, and dominate in the paint (Drexler).
However, this post is not about Arvydas Sabonis and his basketball career but rather the ability to push one’s limitation despite the setbacks that presents us. Behind the Iron Wall, Sabonis played his prime years while piling on injuries after injuries. When he entered the league he was a shell of himself. Lumbering up and down the court. However, Sabonis did not let it keep him down. He fought through the pain and continued to play, becoming the only center to ever equal Shaquille O’Neal one on one.
ESPN. Chat with David Thorpe. http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/chat/_/id/25422/25422
ESPN. Chat with Clyde Drexler. http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/chat/_/id/24592