But two Achilles' tendon ruptures threatened his career in the mid-80's. He rehabilitated the tendon in Portland but played only one major event in the late 80's, that the 1988 Olympics at which he helped the Soviet Union to a gold medal. Anderson remembers on his birthday. © 2020 ABG-SI LLC. And drafting Soviet players -- there was no telling who you had to pay off and whether the authorities would let the player come anyway -- was even dicier. He began playing with the Soviet national team in 1981 and Indiana coach Bobby Knight immediately labelled him, “The best young player in the world.” With the Soviet team he won a gold medal at the 1982 World Championships and a silver at the 1986 World Championships. The basketball world first started to hear about this mysterious Lithuanian giant in the early 1980s when Sabonis, who was born in 1964, was still a teenager. (Think Connie Hawkins, unfairly black-balled by the college betting scandals.) Sabonis shot 37.1% from the arc, 49.8% overall for 13.4 points of his own. No effort at all. That sounds like the most groaningly obvious stereotype, the stolid Eastern Bloc-er pickling himself with the national drink, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. Great forGifts (Limited Supply)! "No, no," he said, waving his arms and pointing. Wish happy birthday to Kenny and share fond memories of Sabas today in their honor! I like the Sabonis of eternal mystery. Sabonis drank so prodigiously in his postgame celebration that he was unable to roust himself for the appearance on the medal stand and was later found spreading his own version of Glasnost in the dorm of the Russian women's Olympic team. Arvydas Sabonis. Sabonis' personality added to his sense of mystery. The top-flight Soviet players all had reason to be bitter, and Sabonis, the best of them, seemed to be more bitter than most. (In five 1996 playoff games against the Utah Jazz, he averaged 23.6 points and 10.2 rebounds, an indicator of what he could've been.). Will the Blazers buy into Jaden McDaniels’ promising two-way forward potential? ARVYDAS SABONIS Jersey!! Sabonis will take his rightful place in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night. He was by most accounts an intelligent man with a great sense of humor but wasn't much interested in communicating with the Western world and used the language barrier as his defense mechanism. Sabonis was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the fourth round of the 1985 NBA draft. Eventually, he developed more than a passing relationship with a bottle of vodka, a condition that former SI writer Curry Kirkpatrick memorably labeled as "Stolichnaya elbow." Former Portland Trail Blazers point guard Kenny Anderson is celebrating his 50th birthday today, and is getting plenty of well-wishes on his Twitter account. "He knew much more English than he let on," his Lithuanian teammate Sarunas Marciulionis told me. Anderson’s lightning-quick moves stood in deep contrast to Sabonis’ plodding game, but the two gelled instantly. ", Indeed, there was none of the Erector-Set awkwardness that was associated with European players back then. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is a registered trademark of ABG-SI LLC. Where do the Blazers Rank in the Terrifying Western Conference? But never doubt that he truly belongs among the game's greats. The guard and center made a great pair in Portland. The giant Arvidas Sabonis (2.21 metres [7-3], 127 kg. Sabonis shot 37.1% from the arc, 49.8% overall for 13.4 points of his own. Second, his outside touch. NBA Running Out of Time for Christmas Games. Touring teams would invariably be amazed at the skill, dexterity and basketball IQ of the young giant. Anderson scored 17.5 per game that year, with 7.1 assists. For his size, Sabonis possessed superb basketball skills, being able to handle the ball well and even shoot three-pointers well. Teams with sophisticated scouting departments wanted him but drafting foreign players was a dicey proposition. He was twice the NBA’s European Player of the Year, but his leg injuries made him less effective than he had been in the early 80s. I didn't see him those early years, but one who bore witness was Sports Illustrated colleague Alexander Wolff, this year's winner of the Curt Gowdy Media Award. Divac is himself 7-foot-1, but at that moment I understood. I doubt it -- to the extent that I knew him, he never seemed like a guy prone to self-pity -- and in a way I hope he doesn't. We covered both Anderson and Sabonis in our 100 Greatest Figures in Franchise History series during this spring’s COVID hiatus. In a column he wrote for The Oregonian, Jason Quick elicited this immortal quote from Blazers team physician Don Roberts, who was shocked when he got Sabonis' medical records: "The X-ray alone would get you a handicap parking permit," Roberts said. My guy Big Fella Sabonis it was great playing with you @trailblazers pic.twitter.com/uNQUnVqhS4. Sabonis eventually played seven years in the NBA, all with the Trail Blazers. plenty of well-wishes on his Twitter account, 100 Greatest Figures in Franchise History, Report: NBA Weighing 2 Options for Start of 2020-21 Season, Damian Lillard and the Injustices of All-Star Voting. Anyway, the pick was voided because he was under 21, the prevailing rule at the time.

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