Arvydas Sabonis Returns To Rip City

Trail Blazers to honor basketball great following his induction to Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Trail Blazers will honor former Portland center and basketball legend Arvydas Sabonis on Thursday, August 18, following his 2011 induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Sabonis, who played for the Trail Blazers for seven seasons (1995-2001, 2002-03), is known globally as one of the greatest centers to ever play the game. He will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., Aug. 11-13, before returning to the Rose City.

“Arvydas Sabonis truly epitomizes what being a Trail Blazer is all about and we're deeply honored to have him represent our team and city in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame,” said Trail Blazers President Larry Miller. “Despite coming to Portland later in his career, he shrugged off injuries and played with incredible flair to become one of the most revered and beloved Trail Blazers of all time. We're very excited that our franchise and our fans will finally have the opportunity to show our appreciation and publicly thank 'Sabas' for his incredible contributions to the game.”

The team will honor Sabonis and reunite him with fans in a public celebration at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Thursday, Aug. 18, at approximately 1 p.m., where Sabonis will be added to the Trail Blazers Hall of Fame banner displayed in the Rose Garden. Sabonis will be honored following the “Noon Tunes Summer Concert Series”, a free concert hosted by Pioneer Courthouse Square that showcases regional and local musical talent. The Freewill Band will perform Thursday.

Later on Thursday, Aug. 18, the Trail Blazers will host a reception for Sabonis at 6 p.m., on the Club Level of the Rose Garden featuring a Q&A session with Sabonis and other Trail Blazers personalities. Tickets are $50, with proceeds benefiting the make it better foundation. Fans can visit to purchase tickets.

A native of Kaunas, Lithuania, Sabonis was selected by the Trail Blazers with the 24th overall pick in the first round of the 1986 NBA Draft. He was unable to come to the NBA at the time due to Lithuania’s membership of the Soviet Union, and made his Trail Blazers debut in 1995 at the age of 30.

Sabonis was a key member of Trail Blazers teams that reached the Western Conference Finals in 1999 and 2000. He became the oldest player to ever receive NBA All-Rookie First Team honors in 1995-96, when he also finished runner-up for both the NBA Rookie of the Year and NBA Sixth Man of the Year awards. Sabonis was named Rookie of the Month for April of that year.

Renowned for his creative passing ability and flair with the ball, Sabonis paced the team in rebounding during the 1999-2000 season (7.8) and ranked in the NBA’s top 10 in three different categories during his NBA career: field goal percentage (7th, 54.5%, 1995-96), rebounds per game (9th, 10.0, 1997-98) and defensive rebounds (6th, 580, 1997-98).

When he retired at the end of the 2002-03 season, Sabonis ranked among the top 10 Trail Blazers all-time in rebounds (7th, 3,436), defensive rebounds (5th, 2,702) and blocks (7th, 494).

He helped the Soviet Union to the Olympic Gold medal in 1988 and twice guided Lithuania to Olympic Bronze medal finishes (1992, 1996). He also twice medaled (one gold) at the World Championships and earned four medals (one gold) at the European Championships. Sabonis was recognized as the Euroleague’s Most Valuable Player in 2004 and was twice named European Player of the Year.

A fixture in the Spanish ACB League with CB Valladolid and Real Madrid from 1989-95, and a three-time member of Lithuanian club Zalgiris (1981-89, 2001-02, 2003-04), Sabonis won the Euroscar European Player of the Year Award six times, more than any other player in history. Known as European basketball's Oscar award, the honor is given to the best European basketball player each year, regardless of where he plays in the world.

At 7’3”, Sabonis will be the tallest player ever enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Photos: Sabonis Through The Years || Rip City Magazine Rewind: Sabas Speaks Out! || make it better