In 1993, Dino Rađa was one of the first European big men to cross the Atlantic. After winning it all in Europe, Rađa became a Celtic. There was no doubt Dino had the basketball skills and talent to play with the best, but as always, many wondered did he have the athleticism?
If you read between the lines, white European players usually reads: “non-athletic.” We make two mistakes here. The first one is to have a very narrow view of athleticism – basically, a guy has to be ripped and looked like he could kick someone’s ass. We think more is more, particularly when it comes to muscles. Dino Rađa learned that not to be the case.
“When I came to Boston, and I started with that philosophy, ‘They are stronger, I have to be strong.‘ Then I realized that with more muscles comes less speed, and I realized that as much as I worked in the weight room, you can’t beat these naturally powerful people. So I went back to using my speed as a weapon.”Dino Rađa, 1-ON-1 with Basketball Network
Rađa figured out he could never compete in strength and raw power, so he went back to the weight he came from Europe with and instead focused on speed and agility. In economics, it’s called the law of comparative advantage – focus on an area you can be competitive in. So it’s not like Dino didn’t work out at all, but the work didn’t show up in photo-shoots as much.
The second mistake we make is to value athleticism too much in an overall estimate of someone’s potential. Yes, running and jumping are important, and there’s a level of athletic ability that’s necessary to compete at the highest level. But basketball has always been a game of skill, and above all, a thinking man’s game.
One of the least athletic players in the league is averaging a triple-double – 25/11.4/10.3 – shooting 57.3% from the field and 38.6% from three. Nikola Jokić is living proof that having a quick brain and skill is equally important as fast-twitch muscles.
Dino made the right call, by the way. Shaq recently mentioned him as one of the toughest white centers he ever faced – Rađa averaged 27 points when matched up against Shaq. To make it even better, this was in ’94/’95, when Shaq was in his athletic prime. Yet another proof that the most important muscle is the one between the ears.