By Bilal Baran Yardımcı / email@example.com
Dino Radja, a Crotian former basketball player and member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, is one of the icons of European basketball. His career with a lot of major achievements speaks for itself. He has two EuroLeague titles, one EuroLeague Final Four MVP, multiple domestic titles and trophies. He played in the NBA as a member of the Boston Celtics in the 90s, and is one of the pioneers for European players who took part in the NBA.
BİDEV is a foundation to develop basketball in Turkey and, in collaboration with the NBA, has founded a Jr. NBA league in the country. The draft of the league took place in the Darüssfaka Ayhan Sahenk Sports Arena in Turkey, and former star Radja attended the event.
Eurohoops had a chance to talk with Dino Radja and the legend expressed his thoughts on various topics.
Do you think you could’ve played more years in the NBA?
“Definitely. Today, I think players are more protected. Game is less physical, it is more about skills. I think players last more than the players back in the time.”
Can you compare the era when you played in the NBA with the current era?
“It’s different. Today is more like an All-Star game, run n’ gun. Before it was more physical, it was very hard to score in the paint, it was very hard to dunk. Today dunks every game… But I think the crowd is enjoying it. You know, all these long-distance shooting, all these highlights you can see every day. Different era, different rules. The game is developing in the way that the crowd wants. I think it is good for the league,and good for the game. Which one do I prefer? I prefer the old school. But I think I would adjust to today’s game.”
How do you feel as one of the pioneers that led the way for today’s European NBA stars?
“I have to say that I am very proud to be one of the pioneers who opened the road for everybody to NBA. Because, before Drazen Petrovic, Divac, Toni Kukoc, Sabonis, myself… There was no belief in European players… that they can succeed. Afterward, we came in and showed everybody that we can succeed, and now the NBA is open. If you see how many international players are in the NBA right now, it is a huge number.”
What is your opinion on Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo?
“All of them are different but I think Luka and Jokic are extraordinary talents. That is something that you are born with. Giannis, on the other hand, is so physical. It is unbelievable how physical he is. He is also talented, but not like these two (Luka and Jokic). Definitely, Europe is leaving it’s mark in the NBA today.”
How much have you been following the Boston Celtics?
“I have always followed Celtics. Celtics are my team, I am emotionally connected with them. Every morning, when I wake up and they play, I follow what is happening. I’m still in touch with the people who worked in organization back in the days, some of them are still working. I’m a basketball guy, of course I follow what is happening.”
What do you think of the Celtics’ current situation?
“I think they had a great chance last year. I thought they are going to win. Because you know, youth vs. experience, and it’s time for youth to win. But of course, Golden State is a great team and they are more experienced. I think this year they have a chance but there are so many good teams in the NBA right now. Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Celtics, Miami, Golden State, Memphis, Clippers… Portland is playing great in the start of the season. It is gonna be an interesting season to follow, probably the most interesting season in long time.”
When we think about the problems they have in the frontcourt right now, they could use you very well.
Yeah, I know but I’m too old for that (laughes). I’d love to be 25 years younger but unfortunately I can’t.
You and your former teammate Toni Kukoc are both Hall of Famers. How do you feel about that?
“I don’t think it is important for either of us. We know how much we did in the history of basketball. I was very happy when he got selected, I’m sure he was happy when I was elected. It’s great. We know each other since we were 14 years old.”
What was the most exciting and fun season you had?
“There are many different seasons with a lot of success. We won our first European title in 1989 season. I won another European title with the national team in the same year and we won the championship. But also, my third year in the NBA where I almost averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds, I felt like this is the best season. I felt the most powerful ever. You know, we have different seasons with different things done. It is really hard to say that one season is the best. Every season got some good things.”
Your Jugoplastica team made a three-peat in EuroLeague. Do you believe that Anadolu Efes has a chance to also achieve it?
“Definitely they have a chance. But you know, it is a long season. They didn’t start well, but the same thing happened last year. I think they do have the quality. It is a long season, injuries can happen, a lot of teams can emerge in the certain time. And also, there are many great teams in EuroLeague. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Fenerbahce, Olympiakos… It is gonna be interesting.”
Is it easy to maintain your hunger for success after winning back-to-back titles?
“The hunger is always the same. You always want to win, it is a beautiful feeling. After we win something, I never felt like ‘OK, now i want to win less’. You always want to win more. But emotionally, winning second and third are not as big as the first one. First one is always the special one.”
What do you think about the potential EuroLeague expansion to Dubai?
“You know, business is always about money. If the money is good, then it is going to happen, believe me.”
Have you paid any attention to Turkish rising sensation Alperen Sengun?
“Yes (I had a chance to watch him). He is playing well. I think he scored in the last game like 23 three points. He is definitely a good player. I think he is already proven himself. As long as he keep working… You know, many players at certain point get satisfied with all the contract or what they do, and they stop working. As long as he keeps working hard on the summer time when he can, then he is going to be better and better, have more success. Moment you get satisfied is the moment that you start going down.”