Definitely some interesting reflections.
“I’d do a lot of things differently now. It’s true I ended up on a team trying to win a ring, which rarely happens to a No. 2 pick, but in the end we’re all looking for excuses. I could say I didn’t get a proper chance, but that’s simply an excuse; it’s up to a young player to prove himself, work hard and wait for his chance. My approach was completely different. As a No. 2 pick coming from Europe, I thought I was sent by God, so I got into fights, got drunk before practices, spiting everyone, but I was spiting myself.
“So yeah, I was the problem. That initial dissatisfaction probably led to me starting to hate and not enjoy playing. There were some situations where I’ve already scored 20 points, but in my head I’m thinking, ‘When will this game finally end, come on, let’s pack it up and go home.’ I just had to feed my ego. I couldn’t care less what’s going to happen the following week. My whole approach since coming to the US was just wrong. I could say I was too young back then, but I chose to go there myself and I obviously wasn’t prepared for what the league would require from me.”
“After that, I went to New York, where I continued doing stupid stuff. The coach finally got fed up, so I was doing push-ups and sit-ups during games and drinking milkshakes in the gym. So, I decided to go back to Europe. I was young enough and could still get back on track.”
“I met with [then-Wolves GM] David Kahn and told him: ‘Don’t trade for me for the love of God. I don’t want to play in the NBA anymore. I’ll ruin your team. I’ll f*** up the team chemistry. Do not trade for me. When it’s not working it’s not working.’ He told me to join them for two weeks, and if I’m not feeling it I’m free to leave. My first year there actually went great.
“My experience in the NBA was a catastrophe, because I’m a born winner. I don’t like losing, even in card games. That’s the Darko that came to the U.S., but after Detroit I spent time on teams that were classic gangs going from city to city and losing games, and sadly you kinda get used to that. Minny wasn’t bad, but we were dead last in the standings. Other than a couple of good games, there’s nothing positive in that.”
So, the "born winner" comment is kind of asinine, and he still sort of makes excuses for being a brat when he went to teams he didn't want to (on a side note, some agent/manager he had!), but there's a lot of putting his hand up and taking responsibility there. When we had discussions about him here all those years ago, I remember saying that the guy had a bad attitude and expected everything to be handed to him on a silver plate, and by his own admission, those of us who believed that were clearly absolutely right.
But you know what? Hats off to him for candidly admitting to that, and having the humility to acknowledge that he wasn't blameless in how his NBA career went. He even brushes aside the "I was young" excuse, even though it wouldn't be completely out of line, especially for his time in Detroit. It's unfortunate that he still reflects on parts of his career with some degree of melancholy, but it's also understandable. I was never a fan of the guy, especially as I found his attitude to be pretty horrid, but good for him for maturing somewhat in his perspective, and also for finding peace in a new vocation.
“I’ve gained 90 pounds since I stopped playing,” he said. “I’m at 350 right now. I’m working at my farm and enjoying that kind of production. I take walks through my fields and watch the process, which makes me really happy. I’m still pretty inexperienced at this, so I like to learn, seek guidance, go to seminars. I’ve created my own peace of mind, and I’m enjoying it. There are always problems like in any other field of work, but I’d rather do this than build skyscrapers in the city, because I’d end up shooting myself. I think this is the most positive story of them all — food production and food in general is the future in every sense.”
Sounds like he might have found his calling. May he be happier doing that than playing in the NBA.