there was no ‘Big Man’ …
in the grand history of basketball …
who was appreciably better than Arvydas Sabonis.
The year was 1995, and Rick Carlisle – then an assistant coach on P.J. Carlesimo’s staff with the Trail Blazers – beckoned me into his office in the Rose Garden.
For 15 or 20 minutes, we watched video of Arvydas Sabonis at age 17, helping the Soviet national team to victory over Bobby Knight’s Indiana team at Bloomington in 1981.
On the screen was a slender Sabonis, incredibly long and sinewy, running the court, scoring in a variety of ways, rebounding and passing with a rare adroitness.
For most who saw Sabonis play before he suffered his first Achilles’ tendon injury at the tender age of 21, the question is this:
What if the native of Kaunas, Lithuania, had been able to go through his long career injury-free? What if he had not had to play, in his own words, “on one-and-a-half legs” through the latter stages of his career?
Carlisle is among those who wonder.
“When he was 17, 18, 19 years old, Arvydas was a physical specimen like I had never seen before,” says Carlisle, who coached the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA championship in June. “He was a 7-3 guy who could run like Bobby Jones and and shoot like Larry Bird. He was unbelievable.”
Kudos to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame …
for selecting him for induction.