Greatest unsung hero in every NBA team’s history

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Arvydas Sabonis, Portland Trail Blazers

(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Portland Trail Blazers: Arvydas Sabonis

What is it with the Portland Trail Blazers and injured centers? Anyway, Arvydas Sabonis remains one of the more interesting “what if?” scenarios in NBA history. Given what he produced during his brief run in the United States, he would’ve been an all-time great as far as the NBA is concerned.

And that’s not just me saying it; here’s Blazers great Clyde Drexler (via ESPN.com) on whether he would’ve won a title with in Portland had Sabonis come over sooner than he did.

We 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. And he would have been younger. He was very effective in the NBA as an older player who had suffered an ankle injury.

Drexler’s LeBron James with the Miami Heat level bloviating wasn’t unfounded; Sabonis had all the traits that Drexler said he had. But when he came over before the 1995-96 season, injuries sapped away much of his mobility.

In an interesting anecdote, when Portland team doctor Robert Cook examined Sabonis’ injuries, he stated that the center “could qualify for a handicapped parking spot based on the X-ray alone”.

Regardless of that, Portland signed him. Despite not being the player he once was physically, Sabonis had more that enough tricks under his sleeve to forge a successful stint in the NBA. He averaged 12.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game with a 21.2 PER in seven seasons with the Trail Blazers.

We never got to see peak Sabonis here in the United States, but what we got from him was pretty good, too.

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