Former EuroLeague great Radja enters Basketball Hall of Fame

Sep 08, 2018 by Print
Former EuroLeague great Radja enters Basketball Hall of Fame

The man who scored the first basket of the EuroLeague's modern era and was continental club champion twice before that, Dino Radja, was honored among the newest class of inductees into the Basketball Hall of Fame overnight on Friday.

At the traditional ceremony, held at The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, the 51-year-old Radja was introduced by the legendary Larry Bird to become the eighth European player inducted. Radja joined fellow Croatians Drazen Petrovic and Kresimir Cosic, as well as Sergei Belov (Russian Federation), Drazen Dalipagic (Serbia), Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Marciulonis (Lithuania), and Nikos Galis (Greece) in the hall.

The big man grew up in Split with the legendary Jugoplastika club during the 1980s, where he was a part of a talented young generation that took European basketball by storm. Big, athletic and technically sound, Radja was 18 days short of his 22nd birthday when he scored 24 points in the 1989 Final Four championship game to earn Final Four MVP honors and lift Jugoplastika over Maccabi Tel Aviv to win the first of the club's three consecutive EuroLeague titles – unprecedented in the modern era.

Young as he was then, Radja was already a member of the Yugoslav national team, having won a bronze medal at EuroBasket 1987 and a silver at the 1988 Olympic Games. He added a EuroBasket gold in 1989, and the medals and titles just kept coming.

Radja helped Jugoplastika defend the EuroLeague crown in 1990, and the same year he helped Yugoslavia win the 1990 World Championships gold. The following year, Radja added another EuroBasket gold with Yugoslavia, then continued collecting medals with Croatia, winning the 1992 Olympic silver medal and 1994 World Championships bronze, in addition to bronzes at EuroBasket in 1993 and 1995.

On the club scene, Radja played for Messaggero Roma, which he helped win the 1992 Korac Cup title, before playing four seasons with the Boston in the NBA, where he had career averages of 16.7 points and 8.4 rebounds. He also spent time with Panathinaikos Athens and Olympiacos Piraeus in Greece.

He was the Olympiacos starting center when he scored a layup that was the modern EuroLeague's first basket in 2000. Radja also played with Zadar and briefly with Cibona Zagreb in his native Croatia, before finishing his career right where he started, in Split's yellow uniform and in memorable fashion, leading the club to its lone Croatian League title in 2003.

Enshrined as part of the Class of 2018 along with Radja were Ray Allen, Mo Cheeks, Charles Lefty Driesell, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Charlie Scott, Rick Welts, Rod Thorn, Tina Thompson, Ora Mae Washington and Katie Smith.