Mitch Richmond Says Arvydas Sabonis Was The Same As Nikola Jokic But Bigger: ‘He Was Like Shaq’

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02/04/2024

Mitch Richmond played against the great Arvydas Sabonis in the NBA and on the international stage, and the Lithuanian made quite an impression on him. During an appearance on the All The Smoke podcast, Richmond spoke about just how great Sabonis was when looking back at the 1988 Olympics.

“He could pass, he was unbelievable, had a hook shot, (could) throw passes behind his back,” Richmond said. “And at that time, he could run a little bit. Bruh’s head was about this big.”

When co-host Stephen Jackson asked if he was everything Nikola Jokic is now, Richmond stated Sabonis was a bigger version.

“Everything and bigger,” Richmond added. “And you couldn’t get around him. He was like (Shaquille O’Neal), with all of the skill. He had everything, man. He was a good player.”

Sabonis stood at 7’3″ and weighed about 300 pounds. He was a mountain of a man but was extremely skilled as well.

Sabonis was a gifted passer who could score down in the post and from outside as well. That skill set of his is why Jokic has been compared to him so often. Even the likes of Charles Barkley have said in the past that if there was a player to compare the two-time MVP to, it is a young Sabonis.

While Jokic is now spending the best years of his career in the NBA, we never really saw the best of Sabonis in the league. He was in his 30s by the time he came over and had been slowed down by a fair few injuries.

After being drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 24th pick of the 1986 NBA Draft, he would only end up making his debut in 1995. Sabonis would go on to play seven seasons in total in the NBA for the Trail Blazers and averaged 12.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game.

We’ll never for sure just how great Sabonis would have been in the league had he managed to come over earlier or if he didn’t have all those injuries. Would he have been as good as Jokic is now or even better than him? It’s hard to say really.

Still, despite all the injury issues that plagued him during his career, Sabonis has gone down as one of the greatest European players ever. His finest hour perhaps came at the 1988 Olympics, when he helped the Soviet Union win the gold medal. They beat Richmond and Team USA in the semifinals in the process, with Sabonis recording 13 points and 13 rebounds in that contest.

Toni Kukoc Thinks Nikola Jokic Is Not At The Level Of Vlade Divac And Dino Radja At The Center Position

While Richmond was not disrespecting Jokic here by any means, another former NBA star might have done that recently. Toni Kukoc said he believes Jokic hasn’t reached the level of Vlade Divac or Dino Radja at the center position.

While Divac and Radja were great players in their own right, it was a bit ridiculous for Kukoc to say Jokic hasn’t reached their level. He led the Denver Nuggets to their first NBA championship last year and won Finals MVP as well.

You could make the case for Jokic being the best player in the world right now, and he is also very much part of the conversation when it comes to the greatest European players of all time. With all due respect to Divac and Radja, he surpassed them quite a while back.

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