Amir Johnson had the misfortune of getting drafted to Detroit during the Rasheed & Ben era, and at one point, found himself tied up to a chair under an ice-cold shower. But most of the time, the rookie experience boils down to being someone’s personal assistant 24/7. Charles Barkley remembered having to get a glass of warm milk a 2 am in Phill, stuff like that. Most of the time, if you perform your duties well, there’s a tip involved. If now, you can try and pull off what Damir Markota did.
Drafted 59th by the Spurs in ’06, Markota was immediately traded to the Bucks. If you can’t remember the main players on that Bucks team, let me help you out – Michael Redd, Mo Williams, Charlie Bell, Earl Boykins, and a second-year player by the name of Andrew Bogut led that team in minutes. During an Eastern road trip, the team had a game in Atlanta, one of NBA players’ favorite cities. A group of players went out to a nightclub, and even though it wasn’t his scene, Markota was doing everything he could to fit in.
“We went out to a club; there must’ve been 2000-3000 black people there – I was the only white guy. I put on some wide pants, threw on some jewelry, and started saying ‘Yo, yo.‘ It was a funny scene, thinking back on it. You live in that world and try to adapt to it.”Damir Markota, Podcast Inkubator
Reuben Patterson was Markota’s veteran mentor on the team. As Patterson took a liking for Markota, he told him to save his money and feel free to use his clothes and jewelry when needed, on occasions such as that one in Atlanta. When he was called upon his rookie duties, Markota saw an opportunity to make a bit more cash on the side.
“As a rookie, you do what you’re told. They have VIPs above the rest in those clubs, and NBA players love to make it rain. I was the youngest one, so one guy tells you, ‘Take these $1000 and exchange them into singles for me.’ Then a few guys also give me cash, and I’m thinking, ‘There’s no way they count this when I come back.‘ So I skimmed off the top from this guy, that guy – I was the only one from the team who made money that night. I sipped my Jack and Coke and made cash.”Damir Markota, Podcast Inkubator
Speaking of Jack Daniels, it seemed to have been one of the reasons Markota only played 31 games for the Bucks in his only NBA season. His nightlife habits became so notorious that the Bucks assigned a chaperone to go out with him and make sure things stayed within acceptable levels. And he didn’t try to hide it either.
Ty Will from Bucks Diary ran into Markota in a bar once. Knowing he’s a member of the media made no difference to the Croat. He started buying drinks for everyone, including Ty (mandatory behavior in Markota’s part of the world). Will was shocked Markota was not only drinking the hard stuff but also smoking cigarettes.
“After he came back over, I asked him what kind of shots he was doing. He said “Jahk Dahniels”. He then told me this little bit of Bucks Trivia you won’t find in the Media Guide: he started drinking Jack Daniels when he was 14! It’s not that astonishing, especially given where he came from, but I was just weirded out by the fact that he sounded proud of it.”Ty Will, Bucks Diary
Markota had a solid career after his NBA experience, playing for the Croatian national team and teams in Slovenia, Turkey, Lithuania, Russia, and Croatia. He rarely stayed with a team for more than two years. I’m gonna go on a limb and say his lifestyle had something to do with it.