Darko Milicic is part of the celebrated 2003 NBA Draft class headlined by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony. All those names, except him, are regarded as the greatest players of their era.
Milicic knows he has his shortcomings, and his career was underwhelming. Still, Darko believes that how Americans view the sport of basketball had a hand in tarnishing his reputation.
Milicic knows that he’s a bust. But for him, he’s not just your typical bust who did nothing during their tenure in the NBA. The Serbian believes that Americans’ immense fascination for numbers and all sorts of statistics worked against him.
“The people in the U.S. are obsessed with stats as a nation. They simply look at the stats, and that’s it. Although, I think they have the full right to do so. The guy looks at my stats and sees me as a role player who’s happy to get his chance, but that’s not who I am. I run away from that; for my whole life I’m going to be the No. 2 pick who didn’t live up to the expectations, but I am what I am. I’m different from other busts. They wanted to, but couldn’t, and I could when I wanted to. That’s the issue in my head, but no one wants to dig deeply into it. They just look at the stats and tell me I’ve done nothing,” Milicic said, per Yahoo Sports.
The numbers do tell a sad tale. In 10 years in the NBA with six teams, Milicic averaged a measly 6.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 0.9 assists. He shot 46% from deep and 57.4% from the free-throw line. Fans know, as if by instinct, that these numbers are meaningless. Even a handful of undrafted players can easily put up similar numbers or even better.
Milicic never shed off his learnings from the European basketball school of thought. The numbers are good indicators but are usually used to bolster the individual. For Europeans, basketball is first and foremost a team sport. Their crisp movement and motion-heavy offenses are good proofs of this. And so, the only number that matters is the final score. A win is good no matter how you look at it.
Milicic has a pretty good point. We all know of players who are considered great but do not necessarily fill the stat sheet. The longlist is topped by Draymond Green, who recently snagged his fourth title. The list includes Shane Battier, Robin Lopez, and Tony Allen, among others.
Perhaps it’s the mere presence of these players which makes Milicic’s argument dissolve into crumbs. If Americans are so obsessed with numbers, then why are the players mentioned above highly regarded? Why is Green heralded as one of the greatest defenders of his generation? Why were Battier and Allen valued by contending teams?
Whatever the case may be, we can all agree that Milicic will go down in history as an unfortunate case. Whether it was his own doing or he was a victim of circumstance is up for you to decide. The good thing for him is that he’s not in a class of his own. There are a plethora of players who were too young and naive to go toe-to-toe with the big boys. It is all part of growing up. At the end of the day, Milicic made it to the big leagues. That’s something he should be proud of.