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Thread: The Sabonis Appreciation Thread

  1. #41
    Administrator mvblair's Avatar
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    Sabas will be honored at a special ceremony in downtown Portland next month:
    Trail Blazers Will Honor Arvydas Sabonis at Pioneer Square - July 29, 2011, The Oregonian, by Mike Tokito

    Arvydas Sabonis is coming back to Portland.

    The Lithuanian center, who was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, will swing through Portland after his induction ceremony. The Trail Blazers, for whom he played seven seasons starting 1995, announced they will hold a celebration for him at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 18 at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

    Sabonis will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as selection by the international committee. The ceremony will be held Friday, Aug. 12 in Springfield, Mass.

    Sabonis was 31 when he first played for the Blazers, but he became a big fan favorite as he displayed passing skills and shooting range that belied his 7-foot-3 size. Last year, he was ranked No. 20 on the all-time "Blazers Top 40" list compiled by The Oregonian.

    Here's what The Oregonian's Jason Quick wrote about Sabonis for the series:

    Arvydas Sabonis was so good when he was with the Trail Blazers that one couldn't help but wonder what could have been had he come to the United States sooner, long before he had foot and ankle problems.

    "It was a shame he couldn't have come and played 10 years earlier for the organization because the Blazers probably would have won a championship," former teammate Damon Stoudamire said.

    Added former coach Mike Dunleavy: "There's no question that before he came over, he was one of the top three centers in the world, right there with (Kareem) Abdul-Jabbar and (Bill) Walton. He could run like a deer, shoot, pass. He would have been incredible."

    From Lithuania, Sabonis was a first-round pick in 1986 (24th overall), but didn't come to the NBA until the 1995-1996 season, well after his prime.

    But he was still a force for the Blazers, his 7-foot-3 frame clogging the middle while also displaying dazzling passing on the perimeter. His behind the back bounce pass from the top of the arc was a staple, as were no-look touch passes underneath the basket.

    "He was an unbelievable player," former coach Maurice Cheeks said. "I don't know if people could fully appreciate what he did unless you saw him on a consistent basis. His skill set was incredible. He could score, pass ... I just wish I had him 10 years earlier. I would still be coaching in Portland."


    He was 31 when he joined the Blazers and despite creaky knees and ankles and a perpetually sore back, Sabonis was remarkably durable. He never played fewer than 61 games a season, except for the strike-shorten season of 1998-1999, when he played in all 50 games.

    "His passing ability and his IQ were his biggest impacts," Dunleavy said. "And the thing he did was deliver against the guys he was supposed to. Against inferior centers, he wore them out. Killed them every time. When he went against the Shaqs and Tim Duncan's it was more 50/50, 40/60. But you knew he would always do his job."

    His biggest nemesis was O'Neal, the massive Lakers center who was younger, quicker and more powerful. O'Neal's dominance in the 2000 Western Conference Finals was a huge factor in the the Lakers' success, making it even more tempting to wonder what could have been had Sabonis been younger.

    "For somebody whose skills were supposed to have been deteriorated by the time he got here, he was unbelievable," Stoudamire said. "He was probably the best passing big man I have ever seen. But I would have loved to see him in his prime. That would be something to be seen."

    Sabonis is living in Spain and could not be reached for this series.
    "I really like the attitudes of eagles. They never give up. When they grab a fish or something else, they never let it go. It doesn't matter. In a book, they write they find a skeleton of [an] eagle and there is no fish. It means that the fish beat him and killed him, but he didn't let go." -- Donatas Motiejunas

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    I sooooooooooooooooooooo want to go to that reception!!!!! But I don't know if I can swing it, since I am going to Portland just a couple weeks later for a wedding.

    I just found this charming old interview with Arvydas from way back in April 1997. I don't know how I never saw this interview before, but it is fantastic because it is so informal. It's just Sabonis with his Lith interpreter interviewing him at his home in Portland after his family is asleep. Shall I break the rules and copy/paste the entire thing? lol..... Better not. This is a really long interview!!!

    Interview by Edis Jurccys

    As a native Lithuanian and occasional interpreter for Arvydas Sabonis, I've spent considerable time with the Blazers center over the past two seasons. But that doesn't mean we've become real close. Sabonis tends to keep things simple. Basketball and family are the two priorities in his life, and he has little time or much else.

    We did, however, recently sit down at his Portland home for this extensive interview, conducted in Lithuanian and then interpreted into English for Rip City Magazine.

    Our conversation took place after a Blazers game at the Rose Garden. We drove separately to Sabonis' home and entered through the garage. His family -- wife Ingrida and three young sons Zygimantas, Tautydas and Domantas -- was asleep. Sabonis turned on the kitchen light, produced a pot of food and served up one of this favorite dishes: sauerkraut with potatoes and sausages. its aroma reminded me of home.

    Sitting across from each other at the dining room table, we enjoyed a great meal cooked by Ingrida and a long chat. Sabonis talked about the new-look Blazers and the remodeling he did this past summer on his grandmother's house. He told me about Zygimantas' karate lessons and past fascination with ZZ Top. We covered the past and the future, but we started with the present.

    RIP CITY MAGAZINE: Have you explored Portland?

    SABONIS::So far, I haven't. My family and I have been to the zoo twice. But I don't have enough time to explore the sights in Portland or the Northwest. This is my second season playing for the NBA. Last year I was extremely busy, and this year is unfolding the same way.

    RIP CITY: Are you used to the rain?

    SABONIS:: Yes. I remember a funny story from last summer. I was visiting my grandmother and other relatives in Lithuania. We were outside chatting and having fun when some rain began to fall. Everyone ran inside the house except me. To me, the rain was an ordinary event. I shouted to them: "What happened? Are you guys scared of the rain?" Right now, rain doesn't bother me too much.

    RIP CITY: Have friends from Lithuania visited you here?

    SABONIS:: Most of my friends come to visit me during big holidays, such as Christmas and New Year's. and my birthday (December 19). Right now, we don't have any visitors. Besides, I don't have too many good friends. And those who I consider good ones have their own families, with kids, and it't not easy for them to take the time to come here for a visit.

    RIP CITY: How do you spend free time here?

    SABONIS:: If I have free time, I like to be with my family and take care of my body. I prefer to stay home, play with my kids, take hot tubs and sleep rather than go out. If I don't have a practice I like to sleep until 12 p.m. following a game. I also take an hour-and-a-half nap before each game.

    We occasionally like going out to eat at a nearby Spanish restaurant. Our kids also like McDonald's and a Japanese restaurant where they can watch the preparation of the food in front of them. By my favorite place to eat is home.

    RIP CITY: Do you cook at home?

    SABONIS:: Earlier I did, but right now, no. I can cook anything, but if I want to make something special I have to think hard to remember how to do it. Ingrida cooks very well, so I don't need to get involved. However, if I have to stay home by myself, I wound't die of starvation. I would be able to cook some food.

    RIP CITY: You're also rumored to play a mean a accordion. What are your musical skills and tastes?

    SABONIS:: When I was younger, my mother wanted me to learn how to play music rather than spend my time outside hanging out with my friends. I learned to play the accordion and today, after some practicing, I can play three or four songs. I don't read music anymore, though.

    At home I enjoy listening to classical music. When I'm driving I like to listen to local jazz stations. In my youth I liked ZZ Top. When we play in Houston, one of the musicians from ZZ Top comes to watch us play.

    RIP CITY: What do you think of the local styles and fashions?

    SABONIS:: Style is different here. People are more relaxed. They don't pay as much attention to their clothing. Whatever you wear demurring the day is fine for a restaurant at night. If you feel comfortable in your clothes, it's good. In Spain (where Sabonis played prior to coming to Portland), when you go out all the people you see are dressed up, wearing makeup and looking very formal. It seems like dressing up is more of a ritual over there.

    Much, much, much more to the interview.....
    Isn't that a great interview???? I knew you would all love it.


    Talk to everyone later............
    Janis
    The original Crazy Fan From Idaho

    Sabonis JEGA forever!!!!

  3. #43
    Administrator mvblair's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing that, Janis!! I like it. It's fun to hear about his personal life. He's exactly what I would imagine, I guess.

    Here is a long article from the Portland Tribune today:
    What ifs will stick forever in rating Arvydas Sabonis, by Kerry Eggers, The Portland Tribune, August 11, 2011

    ...For 15 or 20 minutes, we [author and Coach Carlisimo] watched video of Arvydas Sabonis at age 17, helping the Soviet national team to victory over Bobby Knight’s Indiana team at Bloomington in 1981.

    On the screen was a slender Sabonis, incredibly long and sinewy, running the court, scoring in a variety of ways, rebounding and passing with a rare adroitness.

    For most who saw Sabonis play before he suffered his first Achilles’ tendon injury at the tender age of 21, the question is this:

    What if?

    What if the native of Kaunas, Lithuania, had been able to go through his long career injury-free? What if he had not had to play, in his own words, “on one-and-a-half legs” through the latter stages of his career?

    Carlisle is among those who wonder.

    “When he was 17, 18, 19 years old, Arvydas was a physical specimen like I had never seen before,” says Carlisle, who coached the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA championship in June. “He was a 7-3 guy who could run like Bobby Jones and and shoot like Larry Bird. He was unbelievable.”

    Even with the Achilles’ tendon, knee and ankle injuries that limited his mobility and shortened his career, Sabonis’ stamp on the international game was indelible.

    His induction this weekend into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame at Springfield, Mass., is proof. On his resume: Eight times the European player of the year, two-time Spanish League most valuable player, gold medalist with the Soviet Union at the 1982 world championships and the 1988 Olympic Games, for seven seasons one of the NBA’s most imposing big men while with Portland.

    Sabonis, who played with the Blazers from 1995-2001 and again in 2002-03, will be honored next Thursday in Portland, making his first visit to the City of Roses since his final season here.

    It will be a time to reflect on some very good times that might have been even better.

    “I’m satisfied with my career,” says Sabonis, 46, who lives in Lithuania, runs a youth basketball school and is part owner of the Zalgiris club, for whom he began his pro career in 1981. “Maybe one regret – that nobody stopped me when I first got injured and explained to me to watch for the symptoms.”

    Sabonis is speaking about the Achilles’ injury that robbed him of his speed and quickness, and eventually shortened his career.

    Bucky Buckwalter was the Blazers’ director of player personnel and the man most responsible for selecting Sabonis with the 24th and final pick of the first round in the 1986 NBA draft.

    “I have a half-hour tape, a composition of highlights of Arvydas playing from the ages of 18 to 20,” says Buckwalter, retired and still living in Portland. “He was doing some amazing things. Passing from the high post. Elevating over people. He was a very gifted big man, more skilled than maybe any big man other than (Bill) Walton in passing.

    “In Europe, he was playing against not terribly competitive opposition. Had he been able to play against better competition, he’d have developed more and become one of the all-time greats. As it was, he still was pretty damn good.”

    Already a 7-footer, Sabonis became a member of the Soviet national junior team at age 15 in 1979. He had three stints playing professionally for Zalgiris, from 1981-89, 2001-02 and again from 2003-05 before retiring at age 40. In 2003-04 and at 39, he still had the skills to earn Euroleague regular-season MVP honors.

    Sabonis’ first visit to the U.S. in 1981 with the Soviet national team put him on the radar of many NBA scouts, including Buckwalter, then an assistant coach and scout for the Blazers.

    The next year, Sabonis was a force with the Soviet team that won gold at the world championships in Colombia. The Soviets boycotted the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, but by that time, “he was generally acknowledged to be the best player in the world outside the NBA,” says Carlesimo, his first head coach with the Blazers.

    In 1985, the Atlanta Hawks chose Sabonis in the fourth round of the NBA draft. The selection was voided because Sabonis was not yet 21.

    By that time, Buckwalter – a pioneer among NBA execs in terms of scouting internationally – was in pursuit. He was in Germany in 1985 to watch the Soviets win gold at the European championships. The next year, he convinced owner Larry Weinberg to do something no NBA team had done – take a European in the first round. Portland also chose Drazen Petrovic, a sharp-shooting guard from Yugoslavia, in the third round.

    “Larry was absolutely on board,” Buckwalter recalls. “In those years, we were drafting in the middle part of the first round and couldn’t get the top players. We had to figure out a different strategy. I said, ‘There are some foreign players who can help.’ Larry said, ‘Go.’ When we drafted Sabonis, Larry was the happiest man in the world.”

    It took nine years, though, for the Blazers to get Sabonis to Portland.

    The political climate in the Soviet Union at the time prohibited its players from playing in the NBA.

    In part because of that, Portland’s selection of Sabonis in the first round was greeted with disdain domestically.

    “We took a lot of criticism,” Buckwalter says. “How could you waste a first-round pick on a guy you may never get? And, how could you draft a player from the Evil Empire?”

    After the draft, Buckwalter flew to Madrid for the 1986 world championships and watched Sabonis help the Soviets win the silver medal. He and Weinberg also had a clandestine 3 a.m. meeting one morning with Sabonis, outside the watch of the KGB, arranged by an intermediary – a Lithuanian, fluent in both languages, who interpreted.

    “Arvydas wanted to play in the NBA, but he couldn’t without approval from the Russian federation,” Buckwalter says. An attempt at defection “would be too hard on his family. We told him we’d do what we could to facilitate it the right way.”

    The Blazers planted a seed during that time by offering to provide rehabilitation help for Sabonis after surgery to repair his injured Achilles’ tendon. The Soviets acceded, and Sabonis spent six fruitful weeks in Portland with the club’s medical team.

    “I lost a year of playing due to the injury, but the rehab was very good,” Sabonis says. “I am very thankful to Portland for that.”

    Sabonis came back to lead the Soviets to gold in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, outplaying David Robinson in a victory over the U.S. in the semifinals. Sabonis played professionally for Zalgiris through 1989, then was allowed by the Soviets to play in Spain, at first for CB Valladolid (1989-92) and then for Real Madrid (1992-95).

    All the while, Portland was working on its end to get Sabonis to the NBA. The Blazers were aware they would to have to pay off somebody – probably Alexander Gomelsky, the Soviet national coach and Sabonis’ guru – to facilitate a deal.

    “Larry had connections with the State Department, and we had conversations with a lot of (Soviet) authorities,” Buckwalter says. “We asked, how much will it take to get Arvydas to the NBA? We’d talk to a person in the (Soviet) Sports Federation, and he’d say one thing. Then we’d go to someone with the Basketball Federation, and he’d have another opinion. We tried to work every angle, but it never went anywhere.”

    By 1992, the dissolution of the Soviet Union gave its republics independence. At the Olympics that year in Barcelona, Sabonis was part of a victory by his native Lithuania over the USSR – which he considers one of the highlights of his career.

    In 1995, at age 30, Sabonis was finally allowed to come to the NBA. And by that time, there was no under-the-table payoff to any Soviet official to worry about.

    Even with his deteriorating mobility, Sabonis made an immediate impact, averaging 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds despite playing less than 24 minutes a game. He was the NBA’s player of the week in March and was named to the league’s All-Rookie first team.

    “He was a very effective player,” says Carlesimo, Sabonis’ coach the first two years in Portland. “His understanding of the game set him apart. He always shot the ball well, and was not a good, but an unbelievable passer. He was so creative. Other players weren’t prepared for it.”

    During his time in Portland, Sabonis averaged 12 points and 7.5 rebounds, shooting .500 from the field, .328 from 3-point range and .786 at the foul line. His best season was 1997-98, when he averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds at age 33.

    “He had such a great feel for the game,” says Dick Harter, an assistant during the Carlesimo era in Portland. “He was always one play ahead as far as the pass. He could catch the ball, and he’d be one play ahead of the defense.”

    “He was a guard locked in a big man’s body,” says Blazer assistant coach Buck Williams, a teammate of Sabonis in Portland. “When you played with Sabonis, it was like Magic Johnson, where you have to watch out or he’d hit you in the head with a pass. Sabonis was the same way. Such a savvy passer.

    “I remember one game, he had the ball and I thought he was going to shoot, so I headed to the basket to get rebound positioning. I was open for just a second, and he threw me a pass I wasn’t expecting. It hit my hands and went out of bounds. You always had to be alert.”

    By the time he came to the NBA, Sabonis’ body had changed. The frame that was at 240 pounds early in his career had grown to more than 300 pounds.

    “He was a big, hulking guy who was excellent with his back to the basket,” Carlesimo says. “He was good on the pick-and-roll, and with an up-and-under move. But like so many of the international big men, he liked playing away from the basket.”

    Sabonis loved the behind-the-back pass – “at times to a fault,” Carlesimo says.

    “If you double-teamed him, and his teammate moved without the ball to the basket, he’d find him, usually with a behind-the-back bounce pass,” Carlesimo says. “He threw some passes behind-the-back to guys streaking down the court. I mean, how many guys would even attempt it? And he could thread the needle with it.

    “He was able to do just about everything with both hands. He could throw a left hand pass behind the back just as easily. The fakes, the up-and-under moves – his whole repertoire was almost like Meadowlark Lemon with the Globetrotters.”


    Because of his leg problems, Sabonis never averaged more than 32 minutes a game in Portland. In 1995-96 and 1996-97, he divided time in the post with Chris Dudley.

    “Because of his health issues, Arvydas needed to be limited in his minutes,” Dudley says. “It worked out great for the both of us. We complemented each other well. I was an energy player. It allowed me to go all out during the minutes I had on the court.

    “It would have been fun to play with him before he had the injuries, but even then, he was so skilled. A tremendous shooter, passer, rebounder – he could do it all.”

    ...

    “Had Arvydas been with us, he could have transformed us into a championship team,” says Williams, power forward on the Portland teams that lost in the NBA finals in 1990 and ’92. “He was such a team player. He made everyone around him better.”

    Clyde Drexler held the utmost respect for the late Kevin Duckworth, the Portland center of the early ’90s. But Drexler has often wondered what a Sabonis in his prime would have done alongside Drexler, Williams, Terry Porter and Jerome Kersey.

    “When he was healthy, Sabonis was phenomenal – a big guy who could run the court, dominate the low post, block shots,” Drexler says. “He was a great passer from the post.

    “Walton, Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), (Wilt) Chamberlain – those guys set the standard for passing big men. But Sabonis was right there, too.”

    “I have no doubt Arvydas would be in the conversation as a top 15 or 20 player all-time without the injuries,” Carlisle says. “He would have combined an impeccable international career with an extremely high-level NBA career. He had the court sense and ball skills of Bird, and the size and strength of guys we had never seen before.

    “The three best-passing big men of all-time were probably Bird, Walton and Abdul-Jabbar. I’d put Arvydas right there with them.”

    “It reminds me of the great Negro League players who weren’t allowed to come to the major leagues until late in their careers,” Carlesimo says. “Arvydas was basketball’s Satchel Paige. By the time he got to the NBA, he was basically playing on one leg.”

    Sabonis looks back in his playing days with fondness. He’d have loved to have stayed healthy longer.

    “After I had the first surgery, I was very young and wanted to play, and I may have come back too soon, without thinking of my future,” he says. “That is why I had the Achilles’ problems.

    “Instead of finishing my career at 40, maybe I could have finished at 43.”

    Maybe. As it was, Sabonis’ basketball path ended at a destination few could argue with: a deserved spot in the Naismith Hall of Fame.
    "I really like the attitudes of eagles. They never give up. When they grab a fish or something else, they never let it go. It doesn't matter. In a book, they write they find a skeleton of [an] eagle and there is no fish. It means that the fish beat him and killed him, but he didn't let go." -- Donatas Motiejunas

  4. #44

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    The mayor of Portland, Oregon declared today Arvydas Sabonis Day in honor of his HOF induction and his visit to the city today. Portland has gone Sabonis-crazy again.....which IMHO it should each and every day, of course.

    There are a number of great articles abt the reception at Pioneer Square for him, but this one includes a nearly 10 minute interview with him. Love it!!!

    Sabonis JEGA!!!!!

    CFFI

  5. #45

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    Here's a nice, lengthy (abt 24 min) interview with Sabonis. This was a live chat with him when he was in Portland. The interviewer is a flake, but Sabonis is terrific, of course!

    Janis

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    Senior Member Gytaz's Avatar
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    Senior Member auris1's Avatar
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    Oh well,the big man is 47 today.I will do the honours-
    Still big,still (the) best

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    Senior Member Gytaz's Avatar
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    Russian language required. Extremely funny interview with unprepared ignorant journalist and Sabas.

    When did you become Olympian champion?

    Me? 1988

    Where were the Olympic games?

    Skiing base in Thessaloniki

    What sport Olympic champion are you?

    Me? Skiing wrestling

    SKIING WRESTLING

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    Administrator rikhardur's Avatar
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    Haha amazing answers! Amazing sense of humour.
    Die Liebe wird eine Krankheit, wenn man sie als eine Heilung sieht
    Artificial Nature

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    Quote Originally Posted by rikhardur View Post
    Haha amazing answers! Amazing sense of humour.
    And seems like amazing girl,btw!..

    P.s. Imho, Sabas patience in this "interview" can evoke only envy. Really, he has FERROUS NERVES...

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    Senior Member qiangdade's Avatar
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    arvydas sabonis tribute song. it was about time


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    Senior Member auris1's Avatar
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    Shite,the song is

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    Sabas on the court, during the preparation of Lithuanian NT team in Houston. He's 48 years old, after Heart Attack!!!!!

    http://www.15min.lt/images/photos/61...40dc958f58.jpg
    Javtokas and Valanciunas - like SF's against him

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    Senior Member Shawshank's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yessuz View Post


    Sabas on the court, during the preparation of Lithuanian NT team in Houston. He's 48 years old, after Heart Attack!!!!!

    http://www.15min.lt/images/photos/61...40dc958f58.jpg
    Javtokas and Valanciunas - like SF's against him

    Fantastic video,fantastic player.I think it would be hard to find better player in the world over-45 right now than Sabas Damm his playing against best lithianian players right now and looks quit good Go Sabas our legend ,our pure gold ,our basketball father! love you !

    If god made Sabonis body 20years younger atleast for one day,he would kick those nowadays european centers asses one way street style..those krstic,gasols,scorsanidis would look like amateurs againts Sabonis...This is one of those moments,when we can say "yeah this man was/is special"...
    Last edited by Shawshank; 06-22-2012 at 09:16 AM.

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    OMG this is fantastic. I thought I will see Sabas vs Valanciunas only with customized players on NBA video games...
    He still has skills! If not heart problems and proper training, he would be in the Roster, no doubt

  17. #57

    Default Missed his BD by two days....but that's not the end of the world!

    Happy Birthday, Arvydas Sabonis, on Dec. 19th. Can he really be 48 this year? He was born in 1964, wasn't he?

    You will always be the best! Loved seeing the vids of the Legends Game. You still have it!!!! Jega!!

    Always your fan,
    CFFI

  18. #58

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    Following some links about the CSKA-Zalg game recently that featured another Legends game, I found a short, but really nice video documentary which includes footage from the Oct. Legends game in Kaunas. This one has English subtitles for the interviews with Tkachenko and with Sabonis....always a plus for this American!

    LINK

    Best regards to all of you.
    Janis, the Crazy Fan From Idaho

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    Administrator rikhardur's Avatar
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    Sabonis still has it... It's amazing.
    Die Liebe wird eine Krankheit, wenn man sie als eine Heilung sieht
    Artificial Nature

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    Senior Member Shawshank's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crazy Fan From Idaho View Post
    Following some links about the CSKA-Zalg game recently that featured another Legends game, I found a short, but really nice video documentary which includes footage from the Oct. Legends game in Kaunas. This one has English subtitles for the interviews with Tkachenko and with Sabonis....always a plus for this American!

    LINK

    Best regards to all of you.
    Janis, the Crazy Fan From Idaho
    On sunday there were second game betwen Zalgiris veterans and cska veterans only this time in moscow cska arena.Game ended in draw 28-28.Sabonis again was making 3pointers and had a very nice 1 hand dunk.

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