Saturday, June 20, 2009

Great Sports Name Hall of Fame Nominee - Dino Radja

Well, it's the first new name nominated from Great Sports Name Hall of Fame's new digs, and I wanted to start off with a name close to my heart. And it doesn't get much closer to my Beantown heart than Dino Radja (Rađa in Yugoslavian, pronounced Rah-Jah).

Growing up an hour from Boston, I was surrounded by Celtics fans, and my Dad was one of the biggest ones. During the 70's and 80's the Celtics were amazing. But then, as this guy recounts, the likes of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale retired, leaving us with Dana Barros, Tony Delk, and Andrew Delclercq. The 90's were indeed trying times to be a Celtics fan.

But these weren't all bad times, as 1993 featured the debut of a pretty decent player, and one of my all time favorite Celtics, Dino Radja. Having won two European Championships for Yugoslavia with his friend and fellow countryman Toni Kukoc, the two men decided to test NBA waters, Dino with the Celtics and Toni with the Bulls. Toni's team won many more championships (I think a young man named Michael Jordan was mostly to thank for that) and Toni played a lot longer (13 years to Dino's 4), but Dino left his mark on the league and the Celtics, and not in a bad way. He was the kind of guy that actually made it sort of fun to watch a team that went 15-67 (well, as much fun as it could be).

First of all, Toni Kukoc's career stats were impressive (11.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.7 apg, a career high of 18.8 ppg). But Dino, over his 4 years, averaged a more impressive 18.4 ppg with 9.3 rpg and 1.4 bpg. In fact, in 95-96, Dino averaged almost a double double a game, with 19.7 ppg and 9.8 rpg. Since it was only over 4 years it's far from HOF worthy, but I'm impressed just by looking at it - I never realized the man was that good.

Then again, I guess I should have known. Along with winning those European titles with Yugoslavia, Dino also helped Crotia finish third at the 1994 International Basketball Championships, where he joined Americans Reggie Miller, Shawn Kemp, and Shaq (as well as Russian Sergei Bazarevich) on the All Tournament Team. He also won titles with his Roman team (Virtus Roma, 1992), as well his Greek team (Panathinaikos BC, 1997 and 1998) before returning to Crotia, where he won a championship in his final season (BC Split, 2003). It seems like the only place Dino didn't win was with the Celtics, and even then he did help the team make the playoffs following an impressive 94-95 season.

Dino's time on the Basketball Court has ended, as he now acts as President for Croatian team KK Split. However, Dino is far from forgotten. Comcast Sports Network has a blog called The Dino Radja Experience, which regularly discusses the Boston Celtics while paying respect to the Croatian sensation that was Dino Radja. To be honest, I'm a little jealous - I wish I could stick around somewhere for 4 years, with little success, and still be honored years later, even if just by a silly blog. But I guess Dino Radja was just a truly awesome man, with a truly great name (that is reaaaally fun to say).

And so, Dino, you are now nominated for the Great Sports Name Hall of Fame! Best of luck, I know you've got my vote.

To see the best sports names of all time, visit the Truly Great Names page.
To see some good sports names that were voted out, visit the Good Names page.
To see the current voting ballot, visit the Ballot page.

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