With domestic league championships wrapping up around the globe and the basketball world’s attention turned to the NBA Finals, one of Europe’s finest decided he’d laced up his sneakers for the last time professionally as Arvydas Macijauskas called it quits on Tuesday afternoon. The Lithuanian scoring whiz just couldn’t surmount a barrage of injuries that had kept him off the court for most of the past three seasons. Well here, why don’t I let Arvydas tell you himself:
“I have a spinal hernia, which requires surgery if I want to keep playing professional basketball. In addition, my left calf muscle has been obsolete since I completed the Achilles tendon injury in September 2006. It is two-and-a-half inches lower than the right calf muscle. I seriously considered to keep playing, but it was a difficult decision to make, because I doubt that after undergoing surgery and rehabilitation, I would be able to be back to the court a year later. Surgery is not needed if I don’t play professional basketball; the hernia does not prevent me from living a normal life.”
Macijauskas said he’ll try a move to the coaching world in what was the most truthfully poetic portion of his statement: “I will not be in it for the money, but for the emotions, to keep on experiencing the joy of winning or the pain of losing.” Then, about those emotions he added, “Those feelings are like a drug, and once you experience them, you want more and more.”
Although he’d already reached bona fide veteran status, the former Euroleague scoring champ is only 30 years old. That’s younger than countrymen Ramunas Siskauskas, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Rimantas Kaukenas who all saw Euroleague action this season. Some things just aren’t fair, and sometimes we’re all just left wondering what could have been for a guy who put up two of the nine highest scoring EL seasons of the decade despite playing only two full seasons with Tau Ceramica in 2004-2005 before limping through 14 games with Olympiacos in ’07 and ’08. Here’s a snapshot of Macijauskas’ career before we get to the poll:
-Moved from Neptunas to Lietuvos Rytas in 1999 and immediately got them a championship in 2000. Won another in 2002 behind his 15.7 points per game.
-Won the NEBL championship in ’02 with Lietuvos Rytas. For those who have no idea what that is/was (looking at you, me), the Northern European Basketball League was started up by Lithuanian legend Sarunas Marciulionis and dissolved after five seasons and transformed to what we now know as the Baltic League. Learn something new every day. Well, at least every day that you do some Wikipedia-ing.
-Led Lithuania in scoring with 15.8 PPG en route to their Eurobasket 2003 championship in Sweden. Considering Eurobasket 2011 will be held in Lithuania, I bet we’ll be hearing plenty from Arvydas while Lithuania and its superstars get the Europe psyched for its collective pilgrimage to Lietuva. Marciulionis, Sabonis, Jasikevicius, Macijauskas. He’s played himself into Lithuania’s elite.
-Moved to Tau Ceramica in 2003-04 and led the Euroleague in scoring at 19.5 ppg. Second place all-time for single game scoring with 40 in only his seventh game in the new league.
-Made it to an All-Euroleague team and a Final Four with Tau the following season on the strength of 18 points per game and 56% shooting (40% from distance).
-Played for the NBA’s Hornets in 2005-06 and didn’t really get a fair shake. AM saw 7.1 minutes per contest in only 19 of them and averaged 2.3 points. Didn’t enjoy fading into oblivion so he returned to sign a 3-year deal with Olympiacos which was marred mostly by the injuries mentioned above.
-Was named to LTU’s preliminary World Championship roster a couple of months ago as he attempted a professional comeback. Obviously, he’s not going to see that through.
So as one of the greatest early-to-mid-20’s careers of anyone in European history, where does that leave Macijauskas in the all-time discussion? And when it’s time to gaze back at his career somewhere down the road, how will you remember him?