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The long, strange trip of Arvydas Sabonis

Aug 17, 2011, 9:14 PM EDT

Arvydas Sabonis, Bill Walton AP

From our “if you’re going to read one thing today” file…

There is a fascinating profile of newly-minted Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis over at Grantland. Another fine bit of work by Jonathan Abrams.

Sabonis is more of a mythical player here in the United States — we’ve heard of the legend of his greatness, but what we saw was just a shell of that. The Sabonis we saw had two major Achilles issues, a host of other ankle and foot problems, and was more than 30 years old. How bad were things?

(Former Portland GM Bob) Whitsitt asked Portland’s team physician, Dr. Robert Cook, to take a look at Sabonis’ X-rays before he arrived. Cook asked Whitsitt if he was sure his new player could play. “He said that Arvydas could qualify for a handicapped parking spot based on the X-ray alone,” Whitsitt said.

There are stories of Sabonis in Europe (George Karl raves about him). There are great stories of how Sabonis played through pain and battled with Shaquille O’Neal (when Shaq was in his prime).

Then there was the time Rasheed Wallace threw a towel in Sabonis’ face. Sabonis kept his cool, because if he had not it would have divided the team. But Bill Walton had the best quote about it.

Walton, who was broadcasting the game nationally, still feels remorse over the incident. “It was one of the lowest moments of my life,” he said. “If I was any kind of a man, I would have got up from that broadcast table and walked across the court and punched Rasheed Wallace in the nose. But I let Sabonis and the game of basketball and the human race down that day.”

Just go read the whole story, which comes complete with video highlights of Sabonis. You will not totally understand him afterwards, but you’ll have a much better picture.

  1. boondocksaint224 - Aug 17, 2011 at 9:37 PM

    Sabonis might be the greatest player we never (truly) saw. He was Nowitzki before there was a Nowitzki.

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