Arvydas Sabonis’ #11 jersey to be retired by BC Zalgiris


Zalgiris, the Lithuanian basketball club with which Arvydas Sabonis made his professional debut in 1981, has announced that they will retire Sabonis’ number at their 70th Anniversary event on Saturday. Founded in 1944, Zalgiris is one of the oldest basketball clubs in Euroleague. Sabonis will be the very first player to receive this honor in the club’s 70-year existence.

“Arvydas Sabonis absolutely deserved this honor, since he has been such an important figure as a player and the president of the club.” – Paulius Motiejunas

Sabonis led Zalgiris to three consecutive Soviet Union National League championships from 1985-1987, despite rupturing his Achilles tendon for the first time in the spring of 1986. Later that same year, he was selected 24th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers, where he would eventually play his first NBA game at the age of 31 (1995).

By that point in Sabonis’ career, he was severely limited by a multitude of knee, ankle, and groin injuries. While inspecting Sabonis’ knees during a pre-season physical, Portland Trail Blazers’ team physician, Dr. Robert Cook, reportedly stated that “Arvydas could qualify for a handicapped parking spot based on the X-ray alone.”

Still, Sabonis fought his way through seven seasons with the Trail Blazers, becoming a fan favorite and earning a place in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. When Sabonis retired from NBA basketball in 2003, he returned to his hometown of Kaunas and took principal ownership of Zalgiris. He played one last season with his old club, dominating European competition at the age of 39.

Present day General Manager of Zalgiris, Paulius Motiejunas, released a statement regarding Sabonis and the honor he is to receive this weekend:

"“Arvydas Sabonis absolutely deserved this honor, since he has been such an important figure as a player and the president of the club. We are happy that this ceremony will take place during this season’s biggest basketball event. We hope that many people will come to thank Arvydas Sabonis for what he has achieved and done for Zalgiris and basketball as a whole.”"

– As translated by Armando Caporaso,

Fans attending the ceremony will be treated to a theatrical depiction of Zalgiris’ history before bearing witness to the commencement of the 2014 Kaunas Akropolis Cup. The evening represents another landmark in Lithuanian basketball history revolving around the one and only Arvydas Sabonis.

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