In 2004, the Detroit Pistons defeated Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. A team that did not have any superstars came out victorious against a team that had one of the best duos in NBA history.
For one member of the Pistons, he became the youngest player to win an NBA championship. To this day, he still holds that record. His name is Darko Milicic, and in his first season with the Pistons, he had the chance to call himself an NBA champion at the age of 18.
Darko’s rookie season with the Pistons
Darko Milicic was a part of the 2003 NBA draft class, which featured LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. After James went to the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first pick, the Pistons had a chance to draft anyone of those future star players. Instead, they chose Milicic with the second overall pick.
Many people questioned the Pistons’ decision to go with a foreign player when they could have drafted a high-level player like Bosh, Anthony, or Wade. Milicic saw limited action in his first year with the Pistons, but he did get a ring out of it. Former team president Joe Dumars said that Milicic would play a big part in the team’s future, but that was never the case. In his rookie season, Milicic only played in 34 games averaging 1.4 points and 1.6 rebounds per game.
Darko’s NBA career
After spending three seasons with the Pistons, Milicic found himself playing for five different teams in the NBA. He never really established himself as a player. His best year came during the 2010-11 season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He averaged 8.8 points per game, which was the most in his 11-year career.
Towards the end of his NBA career, it seemed as if Milicic did not want to play in the league anymore. It looked as though he was out of shape, and he wasn’t the same guy his rookie season. The last team he played with was the Boston Celtics during the 2012-13 season, and he only played in one game with the team.
Life after basketball
Milicic announced that he was retiring from the NBA in 2013, and the next year he revealed that he retired from professional basketball to pursue a kickboxing career. He had a brief stint in kickboxing in 2014. He also spent time as a farmer in his home country of Serbia.
The former No 2 draft pick was far removed from the game of basketball. But he did make a comeback. In September of 2019, he joined the I Came to Play in his hometown of Novi Sad. Whenever people think of the 2003 NBA draft, not only do they think of LeBron James, but Darko Milicic will always be a name that people remember because of who he went ahead of in the draft. But for those who may not know, he is still the youngest player to win an NBA championship.