Skip to main content

Why Arvydas Sabonis was Nikola Jokić ahead of his time


When you hear the last name Sabonis in today's NBA, most younger fans will instantly think of the Domantas, the tremendous young Pacers big man who is already a 2x All-Star on his way to building a great career. But every old-school basketball will firstly think of his father, Arvydas Sabonis, who was one of the best basketball players of his era and a true legend of Lithuanian basketball.

Unfortunately, NBA fans didn't get the chance to see Sabonis in all of his glory, as he spent his prime playing in Europe, coming over to the NBA as a banged-up 31-year old center. But even though he was from his best days, Sabonis still held his own and managed to display what kind of generational talent he was. At 7'3'' and with his skillset, Arvydas was impossible to stop. He didn't have the athletic ability from early on in his career, but at 280 lbs, nobody could move him out of the paint.

The combination of size, strength, and skill allowed Sabonis to play great basketball even in his 30's, as he managed to play 7 seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers before eventually retiring. In his whole NBA career, Sabonis would average 12.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, and 2.1 apg, but those numbers didn't tell the entire story, as injuries and age eventually forced him to play less.

Those Blazers teams are remembered to this day as some of the most talented and problematic teams ever, as we recently interviewed Walt Williams, who was a vital part of those Portland teams alongside Sabonis. Walt shared his admiration for Arvydas's game and versatility:

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

"You talk about Sabonis, man he was incredible...I would challenge he probably couldn't jump over a telephone book, but his talent level was so unreal, like his hook shot, he had such a consistent hook shot, over the left shoulder, he can turn right shoulder, the drop step, he was so big, and his fundamentals were unbelievable. He could shoot from three on a high level like a guard."

Walt Williams, ">1-ON-1 with Basketball Network

Williams would go on and ecstatically describe Sabonis's best ability, his passing. As Walt managed to get many easy buckets of Sabonis's passes, he obviously loved that part of his game, as Walt even put him above the current MVP Nikola Jokić in that sense. Pretty big compliment considering "The Joker" is also regarded as one of the best passers ever:

"But the best thing about Sabonis was his ability to pass that ball, man oh my goodness, he can pass that ball. They talk about the Joker now in Denver. Oh nah, he perils in comparison to the way Sabonis passes that ball. Sabonis was unbelievable at passing that ball. And a guy like me that liked to shoot all the time, I just was running all around trying to get open because I knew when he was going get double-teamed, and he would definetly find over the head, behind the back bounce passes, cross-court passes, over the head. He could see the floor, cutters cutting to the basket, unbelievable!"

Walt Williams, ">1-ON-1 with Basketball Network

The Jokić-Sabonis comparison is valid, as the two big men have a lot of similar moves and skills in their bag. Strong centers with a great understating of the game, getting their whole team involved and dominating in the paint with their soft touch, alongside having the ability to shoot from outside. The only difference is that Sabonis did that in his older age, while Jokić grew up in the NBA and is currently in his best years. 

If Sabonis played in his prime, with the added athletic ability, he could have been even better than Jokić right now. Especially in today's NBA that has so much more spacing and offensive talent. It's a shame we never got the chance to see Sabonis in full power at the NBA level. That would have been a scary sight to see.

Kevin Durant blasts Philly fans for their chants towards Ben Simmons

Should the Brooklyn Nets regret trading for Kevin Durant?

The Durant-Irving partnership in Brooklyn could arguably go down as the most disappointing one in NBA history.

Detroit Pistons legend Rick Mahorn and Indiana Pacers legend Reggie Miller

Reggie Miller on who he hated facing on the bad boy Pistons — “He ​​had a crazy look in his eye all the time”

There’s a reason why Miller's most feared Pistons player was dubbed as the “Baddest Bad Boy of them all.”

San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan and guard Manu Ginobili

"I lost a lot of sleep because of him" — Chauncey Billups reveals who deserved to win the 2005 NBA Finals MVP

Tim Duncan won the 2005 NBA Finals MVP. But Chauncey Billups, as well as some fans, believed the trophy belonged to someone else.

Michael Jordan

Beer drones — the best feature on Michael Jordan's exclusive golf course

Do you want to be a member of the exclusive The Grove XXIII club? Michael Jordan has to invite you first.


Miles Bridges' wife exposes him for domestic violence

The NBA community needs to to better. ”I won’t be silent to protect others anymore because I value myself and my kids more than anyones ‘image’”


“The whole NBA just saw this movie” — Zach Lowe shuts down the idea the Lakers could trade for KD and Kyrie

According to the numbers the trade works. Can you count anything out in the modern NBA?

Jaylen Brown responds to Draymond Green's comments

Jaylen Brown fires back at Draymond Green: "Draymond got a podcast and lost his damn mind"

Draymond Green claimed he knew that the Boston Celtics were already defeated mentally after Jaylen Brown's statements. The Celtics forward had something to say to Green on his Twitter.

Tom Brady to Anthony Edwards - “I know the money is good but you’re playing the wrong sport”

Tom Brady to Anthony Edwards -“I know the money is good but you’re playing the wrong sport”

Edwards responded that since Brady’s friend and teammates Rob Gronkowski retired this offseason, maybe he could help fill his void