By Bilal Baran Yardımcı / [email protected]
Dino Radja, a former Croatian basketball player and member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, is one of the icons of European basketball. His career with many major achievements speaks for itself. He has two EuroLeague titles, a EuroLeague Final Four MVP, several national titles and trophies. He played in the NBA as a member of the Boston Celtics in the 90s, and is one of the pioneers of European players who competed in the NBA.
BİDEV is a foundation to develop basketball in Turkey and together with the NBA founded a Jr. NBA league in the country. The league draft took place at the Darüssfaka Ayhan Sahenk Sports Arena in Turkey, and former star Radja attended the event.
Eurohoops had the chance to speak with Dino Radja and the legend expressed his thoughts on various topics.
Do you think you could have played more years in the NBA?
“Absolutely. Today I think players are more protected. The game is less physical, it’s more about skill. I think players last longer than players back then.
Can you compare the time when you played in the NBA with the current time?
“It’s different. Today is more like an all-star game, run n’ gun. Before it was more physical, it was very difficult to score in the paint, it was very difficult to dunk. Today hui dunks every game… But I think the crowd is having fun. You know, all those long-range shots, all those highlights that you can see every day. Different times, different rules. The game develops like the wants the crowd. I think it’s good for the league, and good for the game. Which one do I prefer? I prefer the old school. But I think I would adapt to today’s game .
How do you feel as one of the pioneers who paved the way for today’s European NBA stars?
“I must say that I am very proud to be one of the pioneers who paved the way for everyone to the NBA. Because before Drazen Petrovic, Divac, Toni Kukoc, Sabonis, myself… We don’t didn’t believe in European players…that they could be successful. Then we came in and showed everyone that we could be successful, and now the NBA is open. If you see how many international players are in the NBA right now , that’s a huge number.
What is your opinion of Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo?
“All are different but I think Luka and Jokic are amazing talents. It’s something you’re born with. Giannis, on the other hand, is so physical. It’s amazing how physical he is. He’s also talented, but not like those two (Luka and Jokic) Definitely, Europe is leaving its mark in the NBA today.
How much have you followed the Boston Celtics?
“I’ve always followed the Celtics. The Celtics are my team, I’m emotionally connected to them. Every morning when I wake up and they play, I follow what’s going on. I’m always in touch with people who worked in the organization at the time, some of them are still working I’m a basketball guy, of course I’m what’s going on.
What do you think of the Celtics’ current situation?
“I think they had a big chance last year. I thought they were going to win. Because you know, youth against 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 are playing very well at the start of the season. It will be an interesting season to follow, probably the most interesting season in a long time.
When you think about the problems they have on the front line right now, they could very well use you.
Yeah, I know but I’m too old for that (laughs). I wish I was 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 matters to any of us. We know everything we’ve done in basketball history. I was very happy when he was selected, I’m sure he was happy when I was elected. It’s good. We have known each other since we were 14 years old.
What was the most exciting and fun season you’ve had?
“There are a lot of different seasons with a lot of success. We won our first European title in the 1989 season. I won another European title with the national team the same year and we won the championship. But also, my third year in the NBA where I averaged almost 20 points and 10 rebounds, I felt like it was the best season. I felt like the most powerful ever. You know, we have different seasons with different things. It’s really hard to say which season is the best. Every season has good things.
Your Jugoplastica team scored a hat-trick in the EuroLeague. Do you believe that Anadolu Efes has a chance to achieve this as well?
“Certainly they have a chance. But you know, it’s a long season. They didn’t start well, but the same thing happened last year. I think they have the quality. It’s a long season, injuries can happen, a lot of teams can emerge in a certain period of time. And also, there are a lot of great teams in the EuroLeague. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Fenerbahce, Olympiakos… It’s going to be interesting.
Is it easy to maintain your thirst for success after winning back-to-back titles?
“Hunger is still the same. You always want to win, it’s a nice feeling. After winning something, I never said to myself ‘OK, now I want to win less’. You always want to earn more. But emotionally, winning second and third is not as important as first. The first is always the special.
What do you think of the potential expansion of the EuroLeague to Dubai?
“You know, business is always a matter of money. If the money is good, then it will happen, trust me.
Have you been paying attention to rising Turkish sensation Alperen Sengun?
“Yes (I had the chance to see him). He’s playing well. I think he scored in the last game like 23 three-pointers. He’s definitely a good player. I think he’s already done his proof. As long as he keeps working… You know, at some point, a lot of players are happy with the whole contract or what they’re doing, and they stop working. As long as he keeps working hard during the summer when he can, he will get better and better and more successful.The moment you are satisfied is the moment you start to descend.