The most famous draft bust in Detroit Pistons history is unarguably Darko Milicic. Milicic was picked No. 2 overall in the 2003 NBA Draft. What makes Milicic’s bust so much worse is the elite company he was in. Darko went second, the rest of the top five are: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade. All bonafide basketball hall of famers.
Darko opened up about his NBA career in an interview with Serbian website B92.net. Now, on the off-chance that you can’t translate Serbian, the good folks at r/NBA have your back.
Darko had some more than interesting things to say about his time in Detroit, not enjoying basketball, and the anti-Serbian conspiracy that’s running rampant in the motor city.
On being drafted and playing for the Detroit Pistons
“I’d do a lot of things differently now. It’s true that I ended up on a team that was trying to win a ring, which rarely happens to a #2 pick, but in the end, we’re all looking for alibis. I could say I didn’t get a proper chance. However, that’s simply an alibi; it’s up to a young player to prove himself, work hard and wait for his chance. My approach was completely different, as a #2 pick coming from Europe I thought I was sent by God. So I got into fights, got drunk before practices, spiting everyone, while in the end, I was spiting myself.
I had issues with everyone, and that was caused by me playing just for myself. My goal wasn’t to silence the critics, it was to silence my ego. Tonight I want to feed my ego, so I’ll play a great game against Duncan or Gasol. Tomorrow, we have a totally irrelevant game against a center that’s 10 times weaker so I’ll put up another great game and become a consistent player because that’s what they want from me. But I simply couldn’t, I wasn’t ready or willing to put in the work.
So yeah, I was the problem. That initial dissatisfaction probably led to me starting to hate and not enjoy playing. There were some situations where I’ve already scored 20 points, but in my head I’m thinking: “When will this game finally end, come on, let’s pack it up and go home.” I just had to feed my ego, I couldn’t care less what’s going to happen the following week. My whole approach since coming to the US was just wrong. I could say I was too young back then, but I chose to go there myself and I obviously wasn’t prepared for what the league would require from me.”
On being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves
“I met with David Kahn (Former Timberwolves President) and told him: “Don’t trade for me for the love of God, I don’t want to play in the NBA anymore, I’ll ruin your team. I’ll f**k up the team chemistry, do not trade for me. When it’s not working it’s not working.”
On his NBA experience as a whole
“My experience in the NBA was a catastrophe because I’m a born winner, I don’t like losing even in card games. That’s the Darko that came to the US, but after Detroit I spent time on teams that were classic gangs going from city to city and losing games, and sadly you kinda get used to that. Minny wasn’t bad, but we were dead last in the standings. Other than a couple of good games, there’s nothing positive in that. The coach eventually got fired and Rick Adelman came. I wasn’t a part of the big picture anymore; I was starting at first but after the first minor injury I fell out of the rotation.
I don’t even want to talk about Boston. I didn’t want to go there and I told my manager what’s going to happen. The people in the US are obsessed with stats as a nation. They simply look at the stats and that’s it, although I think they have the full right to do so. The guy looks at my stats and sees me as a role player who’s happy to get his chance, but that’s not who I am. I run away from that; for my whole life I’m going to be the #2 pick who didn’t live up to the expectations, but I am what I am. I’m different from other busts, they wanted to but they couldn’t, and I could when I wanted to. That’s the issue in my head, but no one wants to dig deeply into it. They just look at the stats and tell me I’ve done nothing.”
On fellow Serbian-native and current Piston Boban Marjanovic
“Marjanović is going through a similar situation as me. I don’t understand it, it looks like he’s paying off my debts in Detroit. I mean, he’s on a team with no real ambition who paid 20 mil. for him and isn’t giving him playing time although he played well when he got the chance. It must be some kind of an anti-Serbian conspiracy.”
As for what Darko is up to nowadays?
“I’m working at my farm and enjoying that kind of production.”
Darko’s story seems sad, but in the greater scope of things, there’s a lot of valuable lessons to be learned in achieving the dream you have always wanted only to find out it isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be.
As a fan who could only dream of being a professional athlete, it’s always interesting to hear the stories of guys who viewed their careers as a chore or burden, instead of as a fantasy. I think it adds an oft-lost perspective on what being a professional athlete actually entails and the toll it could take on a person both mentally and physically. The quotes pulled from r/NBA are only a few excerpts on a larger, more interesting look into the world of Darko Milicic. I strongly recommend following the link and reading the quotes in entirety.