By Stefan Djordjevic / firstname.lastname@example.org
Dino Radja shared his takes on various topics stretching from the NBA to his 2018 induction in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame talking to the Croatian news website Index.hr. Plenty of strong opinions presented by the retired player, former member of the Boston Celtics.
“When the comparisons between LeBron and Jordan start, I vomit,” he argued, “My son assures me that LeBron is better but for me, it’s not a discussion. If he had played twenty years ago, LeBron wouldn’t have been able to do even half of this. Today, when LeBron enters the paint, everyone moves away from him, but Jordan was getting beaten like no one and he still dominated. In front of LeBron were Kobe Bryant and some others. I respect LeBron but Kobe was better.”
Further focusing on the beauty of the past, he stated his dislike claiming the evolution of the NBA makes out stat-friendly superstars.
“I don’t like the NBA. I follow it, but that’s not it. It has turned into an All-Star game,” he said, “It’s all in the numbers, people are boxing out opponents so some would pump up numbers. The media is making stars out of nothing. Basketball that used to be played with Detroit and the Knicks, that was real basketball, this today is a three-point competition. Twenty years ago, when you wanted to dunk, you had to do something special. I prefer to watch the Euroleague, the Maccabi and CSKA game more than the NBA finals between Miami and the Lakers. I didn’t watch a single game. I watched Boston because I’m emotionally attached.”
His comparisons moved on to Drazen Petrovic and Toni Kukoc explaining why his latter former national team teammate would prevail in a one-on-one battle.
“If I put aside the emotion and consider only what I see on the court, Drazen was better as a leader. He was vocal, he was an exceptional player, he knew to shout at us in the locker room, he dragged us to work. Toni was more of a silent leader. He did things and people followed him because he was that good. Drazen was a more bloodthirsty offensive player while Toni was more for the team but could still score 30 points on you without a problem. Toni was a better defender, he was more present on the boards, he looked at the assist first and then at himself while Drazen looked at himself first. I think Toni was a slightly more complete basketball player and I would let him defend the best player. Drazen never received such tasks, but everything it all depends on what kind of a team you have and what you need. If I were the coach and I had to choose between the two of them, I would opt for Toni,” he pointed out, “I think Toni would win if they played one-on-one. He’s longer and fast, he could prevent the drives.”
A successful career landed him a spot in the 2018 class of Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, but via an unlikely nomination.
“I was registered by the Adriatica team, it’s my basketball team,” he revealed, “We played a friendly, unofficial league in the Split suburb of Dracevac. They were basketball fans, veterans and amateurs. In the beginning it was actually a veterans’ league, but when I came, the younger guys started coming, they were tense to play with me. The team I played with for the last year, they registered me to the Hall of Fame. These are players who like three-on-three, they like to drink beer after a game. We became friends and it occurred to them. That was it, none of my clubs or the Federation registered me.”
“They called from the NBA office, I thought they were calling to finally solve the problem of the World Cup qualifier system between America and Europe. They said we have a conference call and connected me with Zoran Radovic, my former teammate, and today a FIBA employee. And he tells me, here we are, you’ve been admitted to the Hall of Fame,” he added, “So now… I turned around to see if anyone was joking around with me. I could have expected such a joke from Zoran. When I realized that was true, I broke down emotionally. I started crying. The hardest thing for me was not being allowed to tell anyone for seven days. It was hard for me to walk around the town in those days. I just told my wife, I avoided friends. I cried all the time, people asked me ‘what’s wrong with you’. I warned my wife to not let it slip by any chance, even though she was not in those NBA circles, so there was no danger.”
On another note, Radja recalled his NBA debut, as one of the European pioneers in the league.
“The first game at the Boston Garden. The New York Knicks, I remember well, it was Friday,” he remembered, “I lived a kilometer from the gym, it was raining in the city, there was chaos on the road. I realized I was going to be late for the game. I left the car with the key inside and called my wife to come and pick it up. I ran and I arrived on time. The Old Boston Garden, you look at those numbers at the dome of the hall, all those titles… And the coach brings me into the game. Hey, me, some kid from Split from some small building, three such could fit into this hall. Everything disappeared when I entered the game, I concentrated and there was nothing left.”
Here’s also what Radja also said on Mario Hezonja:
“I feel sorry for Hezonja, he is an exceptional talent. I am very sorry that he does not play for the national team and he has to deal with it. He has not reached his potential. I can’t communicate with him anymore because he does not respond.”