|Birth Day:||December 19, 1964|
|Birth Place:||Kaunas, Lithuania|
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He made his professional basketball debut in the Soviet Union's BC Zalgiris Kaunas in 1981.
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 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.
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). He was named to the EuroBasket All-Tournament Team in 1983 and 1985, and he was named the EuroBasket MVP in 1985.
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. Sabonis was not allowed to play in the US, despite LSU Tigers head coach Dale Brown's plans to have Sabonis studying and playing at Louisiana State University, and 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.
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. 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 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.
In 1989, Sabonis left Žalgiris, and signed with the Spanish Liga ACB club Fórum Valladolid.
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. 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. 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.
Arvydas Sabonis' 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.
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.
During Sabonis' first leg 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.
Sabonis came 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. Sabonis would officially retire from playing professional basketball, in 2005.
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." 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. 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. His postseason averages went up to 23.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. 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.
He won the Euroscar twice, while playing with the Blazers. He also became a fan favorite, and had a warm welcome back when he visited Portland in 2011, en route to being enshrined into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
The 1985–1988 stretch of a heavy playing schedule, and lack of rest, took a significant toll on Sabonis' 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. 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. 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. Eventually, Sabonis would develop chronic knee, ankle and groin issues, that substantially limited his mobility and explosiveness, by the mid-1990s.
In September 2011, Sabonis suffered a heart attack, while playing basketball in Lithuania. Doctors said that the heart attack was not life-threatening.
Pop/rock band Margot & the Nuclear So and So's, recorded a song dedicated to Arvydas Sabonis, on their 2012 album Rot Gut, Domestic. He appeared on the Lithuanian cover of the video game NBA Live 2001.
Sabonis is married to Ingrida Mikelionytė, the first Miss Lithuania, a fashion model, and a movie actress. They have a daughter named Aušrinė, and three sons: Žygimantas, Tautvydas, and Domantas – the last two being born in the cities his father was playing, Valladolid and Portland. Once Sabonis left the NBA, the family moved to the Spanish coastal city of Málaga. Domantas was drafted 11th overall in the 2016 NBA draft, and currently plays for the Indiana Pacers. Žygimantas, and Tautvydas decided to continue their careers in Europe. Both Domantas and Tautvydas played for the Lithuania national team in different levels of competition.
Currently, Arvydas Sabonis is 58 years, 1 months and 12 days old. Arvydas Sabonis will celebrate 59th birthday on a Tuesday 19th of December 2023.
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