Euroleague legend Arvydas Sabonis added another crowning achievement to his storied career when he was honored among the sport’s greatest players ever at the 2011 induction ceremonies for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, United States on Friday night.
Sabonis, 46, won the Euroleague, his only continental club title, with Real Madrid in 1995, and was a finalist for the same trophy with Zalgiris in 1986. He was also an Olympics gold medalist and world champion for the U.S.S.R., as well as a two-time Olympics bronze medalist for Lithuania. Sabonis is the only player in the last quarter-century to become a World, Olympics and Euroleague champion during his career.
Sabonis rose to prominence as a youngster with Zalgiris Kaunas, which he led to three consecutive Soviet Union titles and the 1986 Euroleague final in Budapest, which his team lost to Cibona Zagreb. The rest of the world was forced to take notice of Sabonis in 1988 when he led the Soviet national team to a gold-medal victory at the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. Sabonis went on to help Lithuania take back-to-back Olympic bronze medals, at Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996, in the country’s first two Olympic Games after independence. Additionally, Sabonis collected gold and silver medals at the World Championships and a gold, silver and two bronze medals from the European Championships.
Sabonis was equally as impressive at the club level. After leaving Zalgiris, he played in Spain for Valladolid and Real Madrid, leading the latter to back-to-back Spanish League crowns and the 1995 Euroleague title. He then played several seasons in the NBA before coming back home to Zalgiris for the 2003-04 campaign, for which he earned All-Euroleague First Team honors. Today he serves as team president for Zalgiris. Last year, Sabonis was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame and in 2008 was named by the Euroleague as one of the 50 greatest contributors to the first 50 years of European club basketball. One of 10 players and coaches inducted in the 2011 hall of fame class, Sabonis will forever be considered among greatest centers in basketball history.