Darko Milicic is a name that could resonate with fans of basketball all around the globe. He was a former NBA player renowned for being the second overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, immediately following LeBron James. He was a promising prospect with immense potential, but his trajectory diverged from his projected path.
In this article, we will look in-depth at what happened to Darko Milicic, his career highlights, the reason for his retirement from professional basketball, and his life post-retirement from the NBA.
Who is Darko Milicic?
Darko Milicic is a former professional basketball player who played in the NBA for over a decade. He was born on June 20, 1985, in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia (now Serbia), and was considered a basketball prodigy from a young age.
Milicic’s basketball career began in Europe, where he played for several teams. He quickly gained a reputation as one of the best young players in Europe, and his performance at the 2002 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship caught the attention of NBA scouts.
Darko Milicic’s draft class is among the greatest in NBA history. It highlighted the future Hall-of-Famers such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. However, the Detroit Pistons selected Milicic as the second overall pick in the NBA draft, behind only LeBron James. The Pistons saw him as a talented and versatile player who could help them win championships, and they signed him to a three-year contract worth about $11 million.
Despite being highly regarded, Darko Milicic struggled to secure a consistent spot in the starting lineup during his initial seasons with the Detroit Pistons. His playing time was limited, and he was primarily utilized as a reserve or backup player.
Milicic’s fortunes shifted in 2004 when he won a championship. However, his stats in the finals versus the Los Angeles Lakers was a non-factor in their championship run, averaging only 0.3 PPG, 0.7 RPG, with zero assist and blocks. His performance was far from being projected as a promising young athlete with a bright future.
He struggled to find steady playing time for various teams, including the Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Boston Celtics. At 28, he announced his retirement from professional basketball in 2013.
Throughout his tenure in the NBA, Darko Milicic was known for his size, strength, and versatility. Many perceived him as a young player with the potential to become one of the best athletes in the league.
Darko Milicic NBA Career Highlights
Milicic played a limited playing time during his debut season with the Pistons. He was only inserted into the games during the blowout wins or losses. However, he set the records of being the youngest player in an NBA Finals game (18 years and 356 days) and the youngest to win the NBA championship (18 years and 361 days.)
Milicic did not see a significant increase in playing time the following season. He only played 6.9 minutes per game during his sophomore season. His lack of playing time was frequently highlighted in sports publications. Milicic attributed his slow development to a lack of playing time.
Being drafted ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, Darko Milicic’s stats are far from impressive. In his ten seasons in the NBA, the 2022 second-overall pick played 468 regular-season games. He averaged 6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 0.9 assists in 18.5 minutes per game. The Serbian national had a career-high 25 points in a loss against the Golden State Warriors. He has one championship ring.
As he failed to fulfill the expectations and considering the players drafted after him, many people considered Milicic one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history.
Why Did Darko Milicic Retire from Basketball?
The 2003 second-overall pick retired from professional basketball in 2013 at the relatively young age of 28. Darko Milicic’s retirement was unexpected, as he had played professional basketball since he was a teenager and was still in good physical condition.
In interviews, Milicic has cited several reasons for his decision to retire. One major factor was his desire to spend more time with his family. Milicic has spoken about feeling homesick and missing his family, particularly his wife and children, while playing professionally in the United States.
Another factor was Milicic’s growing disappointment with basketball and the NBA. He has expressed frustration with the politics and business side of the game and has criticized the pressure that young players face to live up to unrealistic expectations. Milicic has also spoken about struggling with depression and feeling unfulfilled with his life as a basketball player.
In addition to these personal factors, some external factors may have influenced Milicic’s decision to retire. By 2013, he had not played in the NBA for several seasons and had instead been playing professionally in Europe. He was also dealing with a wrist injury that had been bothering him for some time, which may have made it difficult for him to continue playing at a high level.
Combining personal and external factors ultimately led Darko Milicic to retire from basketball at a relatively young age. Though he did not achieve all of the expected success, he remains a respected and admired figure in the basketball world, both for his early accomplishments and his decision to prioritize his family and personal well-being over his basketball career.
Darko Milicic Life After His NBA Career
After retiring from basketball in 2013, Darko Milicic returned to his native Serbia to focus on his family and pursue other interests.
One of Milicic’s post-basketball ventures was kickboxing. In 2014, he signed a contract with the World Kickboxing Association and would be pursuing a career as a professional kickboxer. He went on to win his debut fight in Serbia in December of that year but ultimately decided to retire from kickboxing after just two fights.
In addition to kickboxing, Milicic has also been involved in farming and agriculture. He owns a large apple orchard in Serbia and has spoken about his passion for farming and satisfaction working the land. In interviews, Milicic has described farming as a way for him to stay connected to his roots and family and find meaning and purpose in his post-basketball life.
More recently, Milicic has also coached and mentored young basketball players in Serbia. He has spoken about his desire to give back to the sport that gave him so much and help young players avoid some of the pitfalls and pressures he experienced during his career.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Darko Milicic’s net worth is $25 million. The majority of his wealth was accumulated during his time as a professional basketball player. His most expensive NBA deal was his contract with the Memphis Grizzlies, reportedly worth $21 million for three years.
Despite his relatively short NBA career and the decision to retire from basketball at a young age, Darko Milicic has found fulfillment and success in various other endeavors. From kickboxing to farming to coaching, he has shown a willingness to explore new passions and pursue his interests outside of basketball.
Wrapping Things Up: What Happened to Darko Milicic?
Darko Milicic’s story is one of both triumph and struggle. He came into the NBA with high expectations but faced many challenges and setbacks. Despite this, he achieved a great deal in his basketball career, winning an NBA championship and earning the respect of his peers.
However, Milicic has found fulfillment and success in various other endeavors, including kickboxing, farming, and coaching young basketball players in Serbia. His decision to prioritize his family and personal well-being over his basketball career serves as a reminder of the importance of balance and self-care in pursuing one’s goals.
Milicic’s story reminds young athletes of pressures and challenges and the importance of prioritizing personal well-being and happiness over external expectations and pressures.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.
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