Dino Rađa was one of the first European players who made the transition to the NBA – he was 26 years old. Dino already won the Euroleague two times with Jugoplastika and spent three years in Italy, dropping 20 a game before crossing the Atlantic. Here’s how Rađa explained his decision to delay the start of his NBA career.
“I was playing well. I was making a great salary in Europe. The thing about playing in the NBA was that there were so many unknowns. The NBA was more physical because the players were bigger and stronger than in Europe. I also would have had to get used to an entirely different culture.”Dino Rađa, “Boston Celtics: Where have you gone?”
Dino understood he wasn’t ready, not just as a player but as a person. He was drafted in 1990 when he was 23 years old and realized he would benefit from more playing experience and being much closer to home. The fact he would make more money in Italy than in the NBA didn’t hurt as well.
I went from Rome to Boston for less than half the money I was making in Rome.Dino Rađa, 1-ON-1 with Basketball Network
The contract he signed with Virtus Roma (Il Messaggero) was the only one in Dino’s career when he told his agent to prioritize money. It was his first opportunity to take care of his family, and once he did that, Rađa basically always took less money for better basketball.
That sort of thinking comes with maturity, something Rađa thinks is undervalued in the NBA these days. The horrible system of the NCAA and NBA teams looking for the next superstar has led to teenagers ruling the top of draft boards and getting huge contracts before they are ready to deal with it all. Dino calls it “a big mistake.”
Trying to fix an obviously corrupt and unfair system that is the NCAA the NBA may create another problem. The “solution” the NBA is pushing forward with to get players out of the NCAA system goes in the opposite direction of what Rađa thinks should happen. Players coming straight from high-school could create more unintended consequences if not managed very carefully. These are guys who will likely be top picks, meaning a lot of guaranteed money, and they’ll be even younger.
“There are kids that really are good. But still, at the age of 18 or 19, they are not mentally ready. You can not put them in a situation where they are all of a sudden have to be leaders. Because everyone expects you to be the leader if you’re the no.1 draft pick.”Dino Rađa, 1-ON-1 with Basketball Network
Combine this with the fact teams picking at the top of the draft aren’t usually the best organizations, and they more likely than not tanked their way to their top pick. That means a high-school kid who’s suddenly a millionaire, is expected to lead an NBA team with a very shaky support system. More often than not, that story doesn’t end well.
Let’s hope Rađa is wrong.