With the Blazers struggling to get out of the first round of the playoffs the last few seasons, let's remember a player from the days when the Blazers were a threat.
They actually were a threat mainly because of the big man from Lithuania—Arvydas Sabonis.
Sabonis spent a chunk of his career in Europe. Those years in Europe were his prime years. Who knows how much more effective he could've been in the NBA if he had spent his greatest years in America.
Nevertheless, let's look at Sabonis' glory years in both Europe and with the Blazers.
Here we go!
Before the Berlin Wall collapsed and the Soviet Union still existed, Arvydas' home country of Lithuania was not independent. It was a part of the Soviet Union.
Nevertheless, Sabonis played for the Soviet Union in the 1988 Olympics, who earned gold.
This was during the time when NBA players were not allowed to play in the Olympics, forcing the U.S. to sport amateur players.
Stars like Sabonis, who did not play in the NBA, were allowed to play in the Olympics, and they dominated the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Sabonis first played for the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1995-96 season, nearly 10 years after he was drafted by the team, because the Soviet Union would not allow him to leave the country to play in America. When the Soviet Union collapsed though, Sabonis was allowed to play wherever he wanted.
After playing several more years in Europe, Sabonis finally hopped the pond and spent his rookie year with the Blazers.
Sabonis was unlike any other rookie. He was almost a decade older than most rookies at the time and dominated the competition, scoring 14.5 points per game while averaging 8.1 rebounds.
Sabonis was selected to the all-rookie team for his efforts and also finished second in Rookie of the Year voting.
The Los Angeles Lakers may have owned the Blazers in the playoffs, but it was to no fault of Sabonis.
He worked hard all the time against the Lakers, getting rebounds and being a great passing center.
He also went up against one of the greatest centers of all time in Shaquille O'Neal, and he did a fine job. The Blazers took the Lakers to seven games in the 2000 Western Conference Finals.
Who knows what could have been if they advanced to the Finals?
Two things make this night amazing.
First off, Sabonis is a center. Second, he was already well past his prime.
This night signified Sabonis' legacy. Bill Walton once called Sabonis the greatest passing center of all time. The fact he was able to record nine assists in a game when most big men fail to get five in a game on a regular basis is a huge reason why Walton had high praise for Sabonis.
Again against Dallas, this time on a cool January night in 1997, Sabonis recorded 33 points against the Mavericks.
Once again, this was done when Sabonis was past his prime as a NBA player. Many say he wasted his best years in Europe and that if he had played in the NBA his whole career he would have multiple titles and be considered as one of the greatest bigs of all time.
This 33-point night made many wonder how many similar performances he could have put out in the early '90s when he was playing in Spain and in the '80s when he was playing in the Soviet Union.
We will never know.