"It's crazy that when I got to Portland I played with Arvydas Sabonis, but Arvydas Sabonis was drafted when I was a kid. That's the craziest thing for me."
That is what former Trail Blazers star point guard Damon Stoudamire had to say about playing with the legendary Arvydas Sabonis.
Sabonis and Stoudamire both made their NBA debuts in 1995, but took drastically different paths to get there.
Stoudamire was the No.7 overall pick in 1995, starting his career with the Toronto Raptors and winning Rookie of the Year.
Nine years earlier, a 12-year-old Stoudamire watched the 1986 NBA Draft where his hometown Portland Trail Blazers drafted Sabonis with the 24th overall pick.
Sabonis would remain overseas, not making his debut in the NBA until he was 30 years old.
In 1998, Stoudamire was traded to Portland and the young man got to play with the old man he remembered the team drafting when he was a kid.
But, Sabonis wasn't just an old big.
He was a rare talent.
Big men in the NBA aren't usually thought of for their passing skills. Rather, they are thought of for their big bodies that do damage on the glass and hard work in the paint.
But every once in a while there are rare bigs that have the body of Shaq, but pass like John Stockton.
Bill Walton, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Nikola Jokic are a few names that come to mind.
But if you ask Stoudamire, the best to ever do it hailed from Lithuania.
(Sabonis) made the game easy for everyone. The best big man passer, I believe, to play the game. He could shoot it, and this was all playing on one leg. I can't even imagine him healthy... a healthy Sabonis. - Stoudamire on Sabonis
Or Arvydas Sabonis?— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) February 19, 2020
Even on one leg, Sabonis averaged 12.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game in seven seasons with the Blazers.
Those are solid numbers for any center, let alone one that was "old" by NBA standards when he made his debut.
Sabonis will forever be one of the NBA's biggest "what if" questions.
What if Sabonis came over in '86? What if prime Sabonis was on those Blazers teams the made it to the NBA Finals in the early 90s? What would have happened to Michael Jordan and the Bulls or Isiah Thomas and the Pistons?
There may be many questions, but there is no question about how good Sabonis truly was. Just ask the guys that played with him and they'll tell you.
Sabonis was one of the greatest big men to ever play the game.