Arvydas Sabonis’ career is long and filled with acheivements and precedence. Here I will attempt to log as much of his accomplishments, statistics, accolades, and other things related to his career.
Within this section, you will find an overview of his career thus far in his biography. To get a much more in-depth look at his storied career, i’ve broken down his years of play into three categories, his European years, his 7 years in the NBA with the Portland Trailblazers, and the Olympics.
Finally, there are his stats, his awards throughout his years and what others have to say about him.
I may be a little biased, being that Sabonis is my favorite player. I have seen Sabonis footage when he was younger. He was almost a complete contrast to the player he is today (though I still love watching him play now). He was athletic and fast, ran the lanes, dribbled up the court during fast breaks, blocked shots and was a high-flying dunker. Those that have seen highlights of the 1988 Olympics caught a glimpse of what Sabonis could do. Sadly though, he busted up his achilles and knees and is relagated to the player he is today (again, a player I still love to watch) lumbering up and down the court, barely leaving the ground for rebounds and old-school hook shots. Though he has remained a a great shooter and deft passer, the athleticism is gone.
I would have to put him in the top ten centers of all time. He being 6 or 7, after the likes of Shaq, Hakeem, Wilt, Russell, Kareem (in no particular order), but before Ewing, D.Rob, and Moses. Its too bad that fans only see the present Sabonis and from that dismiss him as a untalented 7-foot lug. My friend (who LOVES Shaq, ‘J-dub’, Kobe and all the new-school) bet me that Sabonis would never make the Hall-of-Fame – I laughed, took the bet, and I await my money.
Arvydas Sabonis is a legendary Lithuanian basketball player. In my opinion, (and many others) the best passing center in the NBA, the best 3-point shooting center in the NBA (in the 96-97 NBA season, Sabonis hit three times more threes than any other center), and is a throwback player with an old-school sweeping hook shot. „Sabas“ is 7-3, 292 lbs, and plays for the Portland Trailblazers. Although not as quick and mobile as he was when he was younger, Sabonis now uses his overwealming size and natural basketball knowledge to get things done
„That guy without his injuries, would have been better than David Robinson. Believe me, he was that good. In 1985, he was a beast. He ran the floor like Ralph Sampson, could shoot the three, dunk. He would have been a NBA all-star ten years in a row. It’s true I tell you.“ -Dino Radja, former Boston Celtic
Prior to the NBA, „Sabas“ led the Soviet National Team to a gold medal in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul against a United States team that featured future all-stars such as David Robinson, Mitch Richmond, and Danny Manning. Then in 1992, the year of the „Dream Team“, Sabonis helped the Lithuanian team to a bronze medal in Barcelona. In 1985, at age nineteen he headed the Soviets to gold medals at the European Championships and the World University Games. During his 11-year career in the Soviet Union and Spanish leagues, he has led his teams to 5 league championships, including 3 consecutive in the USSR league. He has been named European Player of the Year five times by a myriad of publications. Drafted in 1985 by the Atlanta Hawks, Sabonis was too young and declared uneligible. Then in 1986, the Portland Trailblazers made him their 1st round pick (24th pick). Due to political restraints Arvydas was not able to come to the United States until 1989, but at that time thought he was not ready (by this time he had had multiple injuries and surgeries to his achilles tendons, knees, and ankles). So he spent the next 6 years in the Spanish league collecting more championships, awards, titles, and praise. Finally in 1996, after conquering almost every continent and with urging from his wife Ingrida, Arvydas Sabonis decided he would attempt to leave his mark on the NBA.
„He can do what most big men can’t. He can shoot outside, he can score inside, and he can make passes, I’m not talking passes when you get double teamed, that’s the easy pass. I’m talking about guys cutting in traffic, making a nice bounce pass for the score. He has a real good feel for the game, the whole game, and you can’t teach that.“ – Magic Johnson, assessing Sabonis’ game
Coming to the NBA, Sabonis was praised by teammates, recognized by coaches, and was a fan favorite in his inaugural season. „At the beginning of the season, if you weren’t paying attention, he’d hit you in the head or something with it. You’ve got to be ready.“ said Harvey Grant, first-year teammate. During his first season, he was selected to play in the mid-season rookie all-star game. Playing only four minutes, Arvydas managed 8 points and 4 rebounds, before heading to the bench, opting to rest his legs. Throughout his rookie season, Sabonis averaged 14.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.1 bpg, shot .545 from the field (7th best in the NBA) and .375 from behind the arc in only 22.8 minutes a game, all the while coming off the bench. In addition, the second half of the 1995-96 season was even stronger. He was named rookie of the month for April and after averaging 20.3 ppg, 9.5
rpg, 2.3 bpg, and 2.0 apg was named NBA Player of the Week on March 31. And when he was placed in the starting lineup for the last 21 games of the season, Portland went 18-3. With these impressive statistics and awards, Sabas made the all-rookie team and was runner-up to both the Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man awards. Sabonis also was the only rookie to finish in the top ten in all rookie categories.
Sabonis’ strong second half continued into the playoffs. Portland was a major underdog against the midwest champion Utah Jazz. Behind Sabas’ 23.6 ppg and 10.2 rpg,Portland pushed the Jazz to five games and to the brink of elimination, before losing. The 1996-97 season was not as successful as his rookie season. Sharing time in the pivot with Chris Dudley, Arvydas averaged 13.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.22 bpg, and 0.91 spg, all this in a little over half a game (25.5 minutes a game). Although posting lower numbers than the previous season, Sabonis managed career highs in points (33 vs. Dallas) and rebounds (17 vs. Minnesota). Sabas’ second playoff appearance, like the 1996-97 season paled in comparison to his first year, averaging only 11.3 ppg and 6.5 rpg against the overpowering Shaquille O’Neal.
The 1997-98 season proved to be Sabonis’ best, Sabas played significantly more under Mike Dunleavy and it showed in his statistics. That year he averaged 16ppg, 10 rpg (good for 10th overall in the NBA), 3.0 apg (leading all NBA centers), 1.1 bpg, and 1.0 spg. At the all-star break, Portland was 5th overall in the Western conference and Sabonis was getting all-star consideration. All-star consideration in a conference that boasted Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, and Shaquille O’Neal locked onto the all-star roster shows the appreciation by the coaches for his skills. At the end of the season, Sabonis received some votes for the all-NBA teams for the first time.
His third playoff experience found him matched up against the powerful Shaq and again he made Sabonis look every one of his 34 years. Flustering Sabas pretty much to making him a non-factor (and flustering me to no end).