Arvydas Sabonis
Sabonis with the Portland Trail Blazers in 1996
Personal information
Born (1964-12-19) 19 December 1964 (age 59)
Kaunas, Lithuanian SSR, Soviet Union
Listed height7 ft 3 in (2.21 m)
Listed weight292 lb (132 kg)
Career information
NBA draft1986: 1st round, 24th overall pick
Selected by the Portland Trail Blazers
Playing career1981–2004
Career history
1989–1992Fórum Valladolid
1992–1995Real Madrid
19952001Portland Trail Blazers
2002–2003Portland Trail Blazers
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points5,629 (12.0 ppg)
Rebounds3,436 (7.3 rpg)
Assists964 (2.1 apg)
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
FIBA Hall of Fame as player
Men's basketball
Olympic Games
Representing  Soviet Union
Gold medal – first place 1988 Seoul Team
Representing  Lithuania
Bronze medal – third place 1992 Barcelona Team
Bronze medal – third place 1996 Atlanta Team
World Cup
Representing  Soviet Union
Gold medal – first place Colombia 1982
Silver medal – second place Spain 1986
Representing  Soviet Union
Bronze medal – third place 1983 France
Gold medal – first place 1985 West Germany
Bronze medal – third place 1989 Yugoslavia
Representing  Lithuania
Silver medal – second place 1995 Greece
European Championship for Cadets
Representing  Soviet Union
Gold medal – first place 1981 Greece Under-18

Arvydas Romas Sabonis (Lithuanian pronunciation: [ˈaːrviːdaːs ˈsaːboːnʲɪs]; born 19 December 1964) is a Lithuanian former professional basketball player and businessman. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest European players of all time and one of the best big-man passers in the history of the game.[1][2] Sabonis won the Euroscar six times and the Mr. Europa Award twice. He played in a variety of leagues, including the Spanish ACB League, and spent seven seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Playing the center position, Sabonis won a gold medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics, in South Korea, for the Soviet Union, and later earned bronze medals at the 1992 Olympic Games and 1996 Olympic Games representing Lithuania. He retired from professional basketball in 2005. Sabonis was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the 1986 NBA draft, but he did not play his first NBA game until 1995, at the age of 30.

On 20 August 2010, Sabonis was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame in recognition of his great play in international competition.[3] On 4 April 2011, Sabonis was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame,[4] and he was inducted on 12 August 2011. On 24 October 2011, Sabonis was voted as the next President of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation, replacing Vladas Garastas, who had led the LBF since 1991. He resigned from the position on 2 October 2013, but he came back to it on 10 October 2013.

His son, Domantas Sabonis, plays for the NBA's Sacramento Kings as of 2024.[5]

Early life and career

Born in Kaunas, in then Lithuanian SSR, Soviet Union, Sabonis began playing basketball at age 13. By the time he was 15 years old, he was a member of the Soviet national junior team.[6]

Sabonis was excused from mandatory service to the Soviet Army, by enrolling at the Lithuanian University of Agriculture, in his hometown.[7]

Professional career


Sabonis made his professional club debut in 1981, with one of the oldest basketball teams in Lithuania, Žalgiris, in his hometown of Kaunas. With the club, he won three consecutive Soviet Premier League titles, and the 1986 FIBA Club World Cup (FIBA Intercontinental Cup).


In 1989, Sabonis left Žalgiris, and signed with the Spanish Liga ACB club Fórum Valladolid.[8] During the 1991–92 season, Sabonis helped the team to reach the semifinals at the Korać Cup.

Real Madrid

In 1992, after playing with Fórum Valladolid for three seasons, Sabonis joined the Spanish club Real Madrid, and with them, he won two Spanish League titles, and a FIBA European League (EuroLeague) title, in 1994–95.[9] With Real Madrid, during the 1994–95 Spanish League season, he averaged 22.9 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 2.3 blocked shots, in 42 games played.[10] While in the 1994–95 FIBA European League season, he averaged 21.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.8 steals per game, in 17 games played.[11]

Portland Trail Blazers

Sabonis was originally selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the 77th overall pick of the 1985 NBA draft. However, the selection was voided because Sabonis was under 21 at the time of the draft. The following spring, he suffered a devastating Achilles' tendon injury. Nevertheless, he was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers, with the 24th overall pick of the 1986 NBA draft.[6] Sabonis was not allowed to play in the US by the Soviet authorities, despite LSU Tigers head coach Dale Brown's plans to have Sabonis studying and playing at Louisiana State University, thus keeping him in an amateur status. However, he did go to Portland, to rehabilitate his injury with the Blazers medical staff, in 1988, while also practicing with the team.[12]

After the 1994–95 European season, Sabonis and Portland contacted one another about a move to the NBA. Before signing Sabonis, Portland's then-general manager, Bob Whitsitt, asked the Blazers team physician to look at Sabonis' X-rays. Illustrating the impact of Sabonis' numerous injuries, Whitsitt recalled in a 2011 interview, that when the doctor reported the results, "He said that Arvydas could qualify for a handicapped parking spot, based on the X-ray alone."[13] Nevertheless, the Blazers signed Sabonis. He had a successful rookie campaign, averaging 14.5 points, on 55% shooting, and 8.1 rebounds per game while playing less than 24 minutes per game.[6] Sabonis was selected to the All-Rookie First Team and was runner-up in both Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year voting.[6] His postseason averages went up to 23.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.[6] In the first playoff series of his NBA career, Portland lost to Utah in five games. Sabonis averaged 16.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game in 1997–98, all career-highs.

During Sabonis's first stint in Portland, the Blazers always made the playoffs (part of a 21-year streak); between 1998 and 1999, the Oregon franchise changed large parts of its roster in order to compete for the NBA Championship (after six consecutive first round losses) with center Sabonis the only player remaining in the starting five. Kenny Anderson and Isaiah Rider were traded for Damon Stoudamire and Steve Smith. In both those years, the Blazers reached the Western Conference Finals. In 1999, they were swept by the eventual champions, the San Antonio Spurs, while, the next year, the team (starting Sabonis, Smith, Stoudamire, Rasheed Wallace, and recently added Scottie Pippen) lost to the Los Angeles Lakers (at the beginning of the team's three-peat), in seven games.

The question that frequently surrounds Sabonis's NBA career revolves around how good he could have been had he played in the NBA during his prime.[14][15] Sabonis was already 30 when he joined the Blazers, by which time he had already won multiple gold medals, suffered through numerous injuries, and had lost much of his mobility and athleticism. In Bill Simmons's "Book of Basketball", Sabonis the international player is idealized, while Sabonis the Blazer is described as "lumbering up and down the court in what looked to be concrete Nikes" and ranking "just behind Artis Gilmore on the Moving Like a Mummy Scale."[16] In ESPN's David Thorpe's view, Sabonis would be the best passing big man in NBA history, and possibly a top-four center overall, had he played his entire career there.[17] In Clyde Drexler's view, if Sabonis had been able to spend his prime in Portland, next to the plethora of other Trail Blazers' All-Stars (Drexler, Terry Porter, Buck Williams, Steve Johnson, Kevin Duckworth, and Clifford Robinson),[18] the Trail Blazers would "have had four, five or six titles. Guaranteed. He was that good. He could pass, shoot three pointers, had a great post game, and dominated the paint."[19] Despite his height and weight, he was "a magician in the post who played the game with a style I've never seen from a big man. He was a point guard in a center's body. And, just to be fair to Arvydas, he was better than most point guards are at distributing the ball." His age and injuries made him appear as a "big guy who looked like he couldn't make it up the court, but the same guy who made the defense look foolish with a pass that whizzed by their ear. It just goes to show you how smarts and court savvy will always age better than a guy with no brains and all athletic ability".[20]

On 6 April 2001, Sabonis scored a season-high 32 points while making 11 of 12 field goal attempts during a 122–91 win over the Golden State Warriors.[21] After the 2000–2001 NBA season, Sabonis refused to sign an extension with the Trail Blazers and retired from the NBA. In his own words, he "was tired mentally and physically." Instead, he returned to Europe, where he signed a one-year deal, at a nominal salary, with Žalgiris Kaunas, expecting to join the team for the most important games of the season down the stretch. However, he ended up missing that season in its entirety, resting and recovering from injuries. Sabonis rejoined the Trail Blazers for one final season, in 2002–2003.[22]

He won the Euroscar twice while playing with the Blazers. He also became a fan favorite,[20] and had a warm welcome back when he visited Portland in 2011, en route to being enshrined into the Naismith Hall of Fame.[23]

Back to Žalgiris

Sabonis went back to Žalgiris to play his final season, in 2003–04. He led the team to the Top 16 stage of the EuroLeague that year, and was named the Regular Season MVP and the Top 16 MVP. He also became the team's president.[24] Sabonis would officially retire from playing professional basketball, in 2005.

National team career

Soviet national team

Sabonis, a member of the Soviet Union national team, taking on David Robinson and Danny Manning, during the semifinal clash with Team USA, at the 1988 Olympics. The Soviets scored an 82–76 win, with Sabonis contributing 13 points and 13 rebounds.

In 1982, Sabonis was one of the players in the senior Soviet Union national team that toured the United States, playing against various college basketball teams.[12]

Despite being recommended to rest, instead of playing in the 1988 Summer Olympics, the Soviets allowed Sabonis to remain a part of their national team.[12] Sabonis led the Soviet Union to a gold medal, with a win against the 1988 edition of the United States national team, that featured future NBA All-Stars David Robinson, Mitch Richmond, and Danny Manning[6] in the semifinals. This was the last American Olympic team that was not composed of active NBA players. The team later beat Yugoslavia in the finals.[6]

In his career with the senior Soviet national team, Sabonis also played at the following major tournaments: the 1982 FIBA World Championship (gold medal), the 1983 EuroBasket (bronze medal), the 1985 EuroBasket (gold medal), the 1986 FIBA World Championship (silver medal), and the 1989 EuroBasket (bronze medal).[25] He was named to the EuroBasket All-Tournament Team in 1983 and 1985, and he was named the EuroBasket MVP in 1985.

The 1985–1988 stretch of a heavy playing schedule, and lack of rest, took a significant toll on Sabonis's future health and durability. Various leg injuries were not given much time to heal, due to the Cold War climate that surrounded international competition, as well as the intense rivalry of the Žalgiris Kaunas versus CSKA Moscow games in the USSR Premier League. In a 2011 interview, Sabonis expressed an opinion, that overuse by the coaches of the Soviet national program, was a major contributing factor to his first Achilles' tendon injury, back in 1986.[26] Another key moment for his future health, took place in 1988, when Sabonis had a surgical Achilles procedure performed in Portland, but was rushed back on the floor with the USSR Olympic team, before a full recovery. The decision to include a limping Sabonis, on the USSR roster for the 1988 Olympic Games, was protested at the time by the Portland medical staff, and was later heavily criticized.[27] While the Soviets cleared him to play professionally in 1989, when his Soviet national teammate, Šarūnas Marčiulionis, went to North America, Sabonis postponed his travel, over feeling that he was not physically ready for the NBA.[12] Eventually, Sabonis would develop chronic knee, ankle and groin issues, that substantially limited his mobility and explosiveness, by the mid-1990s.

Lithuanian national team

After breakup of the Soviet Union, and the independence of Lithuania, Sabonis then became a member of the senior Lithuanian national team. He represented Lithuania at the following major tournaments: the 1992 Summer Olympic Games (bronze medal), the 1995 EuroBasket (silver medal), the 1996 Summer Olympic Games (bronze medal), and the 1999 EuroBasket. He was named to the EuroBasket All-Tournament Team in 1995.

Sabonis was also awarded a silver medal at the 2013 EuroBasket tournament, due to being the Lithuanian Basketball Federation (LKF) President.[28]

Career statistics

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
 *  Led the league


Regular season


1995–96 Portland 73 21 23.8 .545 .375 .757 8.1 1.8 .9 1.1 14.5
1996–97 Portland 69 68 25.5 .498 .371 .777 7.9 2.1 .9 1.2 13.4
1997–98 Portland 73 73 32.0 .493 .261 .798 10.0 3.0 .9 1.1 16.0
1998–99 Portland 50* 48 27.0 .485 .292 .771 7.9 2.4 .7 1.3 12.1
1999–00 Portland 66 61 25.6 .505 .368 .843 7.8 1.8 .7 1.2 11.8
2000–01 Portland 61 42 21.3 .479 .067 .776 5.4 1.5 .7 1.0 10.1
2002–03 Portland 78 1 15.5 .476 .500 .787 4.3 1.8 .8 .6 6.1
Career 470 314 24.2 .500 .328 .786 7.3 2.1 .8 1.1 12.0


1996 Portland 5 5 35.4 .432 .556 .717 10.2 1.8 .8 .6 23.6
1997 Portland 4 4 27.0 .429 .250 .875 6.5 2.3 .8 .8 11.3
1998 Portland 4 4 26.8 .450 .500 .857 7.8 1.5 1.8 .8 12.3
1999 Portland 13 13 30.2 .398 .200 .907 8.8 2.2 1.2 1.2 10.0
2000 Portland 16 16 30.8 .453 .286 .796 6.7 1.9 .9 .8 11.3
2001 Portland 3 3 34.7 .483 .000 .750 8.3 2.7 .3 2.3 11.3
2003 Portland 6 1 14.3 .667 .800 4.0 .8 .7 .7 10.0
Career 51 46 28.8 .452 .319 .802 7.4 1.9 .9 .9 12.1


  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field-goal percentage  3P%  3-point field-goal percentage  FT%  Free-throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  PIR  Performance Index Rating
 Bold  Career high  †  Won a EuroLeague championship  *  Led the league
1985–86 Žalgiris 13 24.5
1986–87 Žalgiris 6 21.3
1992–93[30] Real Madrid 20 30.9 .543 .500 .663 12.0* 1.9 1.2 16.5
1993–94[31] Real Madrid 15 34.3 .577 .350 .723 11.9 2.9 1.0 17.4
1994–95[32] Real Madrid 17 33.8 .572 .545 .783 11.2 2.6 1.8 21.8
2003–04 Žalgiris 18 14 28.3 .560 .366 .696 10.7* 2.4 1.0 1.6* 16.7 26.3*
Career 89 31.6 .562 .439 .716 11.4 2.4 1.3 1.6 19.2

Personal life

Sabonis is married to Ingrida Mikelionytė [lt], the first Miss Lithuania, a fashion model, and a movie actress.[6] They have a daughter named Aušrinė, and three sons: Žygimantas, Tautvydas, and Domantas – the last two being born in the cities their father was playing, Valladolid and Portland. Once Sabonis left the NBA, the family moved to the Spanish coastal city of Málaga.[12] Domantas was drafted 11th overall in the 2016 NBA draft and is currently a three-time NBA All-Star,[33] and currently plays for the Sacramento Kings. Žygimantas,[34] and Tautvydas decided to continue their careers in Europe. Both Domantas and Tautvydas played for the Lithuania national team in different levels of competition.

In September 2011, Sabonis suffered a heart attack, while playing basketball in Lithuania. Doctors said that the heart attack was not life-threatening.[35]

According to his son, Domantas, Arvydas is a huge fan of the Boston Celtics, his favorite basketball player is Larry Bird and his favorite color is green.[36]

Popular culture

He appeared on the Lithuanian cover of the video game NBA Live 2001.

Arvydas Sabonis's basketball career and journey to represent his native country Lithuania in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics is highlighted in the documentary film The Other Dream Team. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 and was distributed by Lionsgate in the U.S. and Disney internationally.

See also


  1. ^ "The Old College Try: The complicated recruiting sagas of Arvydas Sabonis and his son Domantas". Sports Illustrated Longform. Retrieved 3 November 2023.
  2. ^ Staff, The Ringer (11 October 2017). "Our Favorite Passers in NBA History". The Ringer. Retrieved 3 November 2023.
  3. ^ "FIBA announces 2010 Hall of Fame Class". FIBA. 20 August 2010. Archived from the original on 19 October 2010.
  4. ^ "Rodman, Mullin, Winter named to Naismith Hall of Fame". NBA. 4 April 2011. Archived from the original on 7 April 2011.
  5. ^ "Pacers trade Domantas Sabonis to Kings in 6-player deal". Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h "Arvydas Sabonis Bio". Archived from the original on 17 June 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  7. ^ "Perestroika and Lithuanian Basketball" (PDF).
  8. ^ "Blazers Lose Sabonis to Spain Again". Los Angeles Times. 4 June 1990. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  9. ^ "Prisiminimai apie A. Sabonio fenomeną ispaną privertė atsiprašyti P. Gasolio". Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  10. ^ ARVYDAS SABONISDorsal:Posición: PívotAltura: 2,22 m (in Spanish).
  12. ^ a b c d e "The Old College Try: The complicated recruiting sagas of Arvydas Sabonis and his son Domantas". Sports Illustrated Longform.
  13. ^ Abrams, Jonathan (16 August 2011). "Arvydas Sabonis' Long, Strange Trip". Grantland,com. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  14. ^ Whittell, Ian (2 May 2008). "Best of the Euroleague and NBA: Arvydas Sabonis". Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  15. ^ Quick, Jason (27 February 2010). "Blazers Top 40: No. 20 Arvydas Sabonis". Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  16. ^ "The Bill Simmons Typo That Insulted an Entire City". 17 November 2009.
  17. ^ "Chat with David Thorpe".
  18. ^ Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Game Selections
  19. ^ "Chat with Clyde Drexler".
  20. ^ a b Lyslo, Erik. "Portland Will Miss Arvydas Sabonis". Archived from the original on 29 June 2010. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  21. ^ Kemp distraction aside, Blazers storm Warriors
  22. ^ "BOREDOM BRINGS SABONIS BACK TO BLAZERS". 1 October 2002. Archived from the original on 5 November 2012.
  23. ^ "A Summer Day With Sabonis". Archived from the original on 9 October 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  24. ^ "50 Greatest contributors list: Arvydas Sabonis". Archived from the original on 27 January 2010. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  25. ^ "Arvydas-Romas SABONIS".
  26. ^ Lithuania Calling Also Winn, Luke (15 August 2011). "Lithuania Calling". Sports Illustrated. Vol. 115, no. 6. pp. 52–56.
  27. ^ Times, Esther B. Fein and Special To the New York (30 August 1988). "Sabonis Is Named To Soviet Team". The New York Times.
  28. ^ Arvydas Sabonis (second from left) with Silver medal (photo)
  29. ^ "Arvydas Sabonis Stats -".
  33. ^ Vecenie, Sam (8 April 2016). "Gonzaga's Domantas Sabonis, son of Hall of Famer, is ready for NBA Draft". Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  34. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 July 2023. Retrieved 30 August 2016.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  35. ^ "Former NBA star Sabonis stable after heart attack".
  36. ^ ""Celtics" peržiūroje dalyvavęs D.Sabonis atskleidė įdomų faktą apie savo tėvą ir žaidimo elementą, kurį nori patobulinti labiausiai". Retrieved 9 June 2016.