Thursday, August 11th, 2011 at 9:30 am  |  24 responses

Arvydas Sabonis ‘Satisfied’ With His Career

Arvydas Sabonis joined the Portland Trailblazers when his best basketball days were already well behind him, but on the eve of his Hall of Fame induction, he has few regrets. From the Portland Tribune: “Even with the Achilles’ tendon, knee and ankle injuries that limited his mobility and shortened his career, Sabonis’ stamp on the international game was indelible. His induction this weekend into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame at Springfield, Mass., is proof. On his resume: Eight times the European player of the year, two-time Spanish League most valuable player, gold medalist with the Soviet Union at the 1982 world championships and the 1988 Olympic Games, for seven seasons one of the NBA’s most imposing big men while with Portland. Sabonis, who played with the Blazers from 1995-2001 and again in 2002-03, will be honored next Thursday in Portland, making his first visit to the City of Roses since his final season here. It will be a time to reflect on some very good times that might have been even better. ‘I’m satisfied with my career,’ says Sabonis, 46, who lives in Lithuania, runs a youth basketball school and is part owner of the Zalgiris club, for whom he began his pro career in 1981. ‘Maybe one regret – that nobody stopped me when I first got injured and explained to me to watch for the symptoms.’ Sabonis is speaking about the Achilles’ injury that robbed him of his speed and quickness, and eventually shortened his career. Bucky Buckwalter was the Blazers’ director of player personnel and the man most responsible for selecting Sabonis with the 24th and final pick of the first round in the 1986 NBA draft. ‘I have a half-hour tape, a composition of highlights of Arvydas playing from the ages of 18 to 20,’ says Buckwalter, retired and still living in Portland. ‘He was doing some amazing things. Passing from the high post. Elevating over people. He was a very gifted big man, more skilled than maybe any big man other than (Bill) Walton in passing. In Europe, he was playing against not terribly competitive opposition. Had he been able to play against better competition, he’d have developed more and become one of the all-time greats. As it was, he still was pretty damn good.’”

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  • Big M.D.W

    he shoud be he had so many injuries but he still did so well

  • robb

    I don’t think if I’ve ever seen a center pass the ball as well as Arvydas.

  • red Schott

    anybody who can suffer the kinds of injuries that he did and still play in the NBA competitively is a great athlete. He deserves the Hall of Fame. That was one dime droppin big man

  • http://philosopher.view@blogspot.com The Philosopher

    The best passing big man of all time. It is close, though.
    1. Sabonis
    2. Walton
    3. Chamberlain
    4. Brad Daugherty
    5. Vlade Divac
    In my opinion.

  • angus

    imagine vlade and sabonis on the same team…

  • Morgan

    @Philo – I think an honorable mention should go to Pau Gasol for that list. Pau has been a stellar passer in both nba and international competition his entire career (11 seasons, 3.1apg even with most of it in memphis) but isn’t quite as good as your top 5.

  • bmorezbest

    i wish sabonis wouldve came to the league earlier in his career i saw some old footage of him and he was amazing but yeah he def could run the onffense standing still in the post excellent passer

  • Yann Blavec

    The Buckwalter’s tape ‘s gonna be kept hidden like Vince’s.

  • vtrobot


  • http://bleacherreport.com/articles/791470-lebron-james-vs-dwyane-wade-who-is-the-better-player/page/8 nbk

    Philo you forgot that dood Wes Unseld. Well IMO he is the best passing bigman all-time next too Walton and Sabonis

  • http://philosopher.view@blogspot.com The Philosopher

    Co-sign nbk & Morgan.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Philo – Yao was an underrated passer too.

  • http://ggfhh.com Jukai

    …. no Russell on that passing list? You know the offense went through him when cluster retired, right?

  • http://ggfhh.com Jukai

    Wes unsold was a great outlet passer but was kinda overrated passing from the post, imo

  • http://bleacherreport.com/articles/791470-lebron-james-vs-dwyane-wade-who-is-the-better-player/page/8 nbk

    Wes averaged 10PPG 14RPG & 4APG for his career. – Perspective: Bill Walton averaged about 5APG during his heavy minute seasons. Wilt averaged 4 for his career (but 8.6 when he was focused on passing more then scoring) Daugherty is 4APG. So regardless of how Wes was perceived, he produced like an elite passing big…to go along with his unmatched outlet passing.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    There would be a whole lot of flopping and flailing going on if Vlade and Arvydas were on the same team.
    Walton is without a doubt the greatest passing center of all-time.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    Holy shi+, totally caught me off guard with the 8.6 astpg from Wilt. WTF, thats insane! Somehow that amazes me more than every other WILT STAT.

  • http://dsjfklfl.com Jukai

    NBK: I’ll be honest, I didn’t know Wes Unseld’s apg was that good. It could be I’ve just watched piss poor games from Unseld, or maybe it was his subpar offense which never forced double teams which he could take advantage of… but the stats certainly opened my eyes. To follow up on your comments, Russell averaged more assists per game than any passing big man not named Chamberlain. 4.3 a game for his CAREER, in an age where assists were rarely handed out… And Walton has the highest apg per 36-minutes (4.3) than Brad (3.6), Wes (3.8), Russell (3.6), Divac (3.8), Sabonis (3.1), and Chamberlain (3.5). IMHO, Walton was definitely the best passing big ever— he was just too injured to ever play minutes. The exception may be Sabonis, I honestly haven’t seen any vintage footage of him outside of some youtube highlights… I at least wanna see a few full games of a player before comment. I don’t know if his Portland days really count for anything.
    LakeShow: While Chamberlain really was an outstanding passer… his 8.6 apg is kinda skewed. Chamberlain boasted once that he could lead the league in assists and some reporters mocked him for it… so he pretty much told his team to shoot every time he passed it to them (and would stop passing to them if they were throwing extra passes).
    Chamberlain was a stat whore.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Should be noted that Wilt led the league in *total* assists that season, not APG. Although that’s still insane for a center. I think it was Oscar Robertson who led the league in APG that year..?

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Co-sign Jukai on Unseld. I remember watching the ’75 Finals vs the Warriors and being amazed in how bad an offensive player he was. Dude couldn’t shoot to save his life, he played terrible defense around the basket and all he did was basically rebound and throw the occasional outlet pass.
    Unsled was one of those guys that excelled in one or two aspects of the game yet failed in so many other areas. He had no business being the ’68/69 MVP and put up one of the worst performances for a Finals MVP (scoring wise) during the 78 Finals. Unseld was a very good player but in no way, shape or form was he an all-time great.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Co-sign Enigmatic, Yao is definitely an underrated passer.

  • http://dsjfklfl.com Jukai

    Teddy: Back then, the person who put up the most *total* assists lead the league in passing. I don’t exactly remember when it changed (and am too lazy to look it up) but yeah, Oscar dropped 9+ assists then.
    JTaylor: According to stuff I’ve read from Simmons and Hollinger, Unseld kinda got that Nash vote— he was new (squatty black dude with a humongous afro), playing in a flashy way (outlet passing, overt putbacks) and people simply didn’t know who else to vote for, since the old guard (Chamberlain, Russel, Robertson) were too old and the new guard (Kareem, Malone, Walton) hadn’t made it yet.
    Also, speaking of dubious bigmen MVPs who were great passers, no mention of Dave Cowens? Hell, David Robinson deserves some love too, he could be downright flashy at times.
    And yeah, Yao was a good passer, especially considering he had to share the ball with the black hole known as T-Mac… but I don’t think he’s a top-10 caliber passing big, was he?

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.l.brewer3 BlackPhantom

    No Wilt Chamberlain statistic will amaze me the way “55 rebounds in one game” does.

  • sam

    sabonis is the best player of all time no one could do the things he could and he was 7’3 jordan was good butt if portland got him when they sould have jordan would have had no rings