Milestones: Tavares's block party

Jul 12, 2021 by by Darius Garuolis Print

Real Madrid center Walter Tavares led the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague in blocked shots last season with 1.8 per game. That marked the third season in a row in which he paced the competition in both blocks per game and total rejections.

Tavares's 63 total blocks were the second-most in one season in EuroLeague history, trailing only the 68 shots that Ekpe Udoh blocked with Fenerbahce Istanbul in 2016-17. In fact, Tavares owns three of the top five single-season block totals.

In January, Tavares added to his list of accolades when he became the fifth player in EuroLeague history to reach the 200 blocks milestone. He accomplished the feat against Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv on January 21, 2021. Tavares was the youngest player on record and needed fewer games than anyone before to reach that number.

Fran Vazquez, who led the competition in blocks for many years, was the first player to block 200 shots and now sits third on the all-time charts with 249. The other three members of the 200-blocks club claimed their membership in the 2018-19 season. They are Bryant Dunston, who leads the all-time standings with 273 blocks; Kyle Hines of AX Armani Exchange Milan, who is second with 262; and Tavares's Real teammate Alex Tyus (217), who is fifth. Tavares is fourth with 224 career rejections.

Tavares was 28 years and 305 days old when he blocked his 200th shot. Vazquez had been the youngest by recording his 200th block at 30 years and 170 days of age. Tavares only needed 112 games to register its 200th block, which is considerably fewer than the other members of the club. Dunston reached that figure in 157 games, Tyus needed 168, Vazquez did so in 186 and Hines had his 200th block in his 241st EuroLeague showdown.

Since Tavares made his EuroLeague debut in Round 7 of the 2017-18 season, his 224 blocks are nearly as many as the next two players over that span combined! In that time, Dunston has blocked 131 shots and Hines has rejected 98. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Tavares was chosen as the EuroLeague Best Defender for both the 2018-19 and 2020-21 seasons, as he changed games on defense like no other center due to his size, timing, quick legs and extraordinary coordination.

Nicknamed "Sergeant Swat" by EuroLeague TV commentator and former champion Joe Arlauckas, Tavares has blocked 1.76 shots per game for his career. That is good for second place overall; Udoh had 129 blocks in 58 games for an average of 2.22. The late Grigorij Khizhnyak did not play enough games to qualify, though with 83 blocks in 26 career games for Zalgiris Kaunas from 2000 to 2002, he averaged 3.19 blocks per game.

With four of the top five shot-blockers in EuroLeague history active last season, the numbers at the top of the charts continue to rise. However, if Tavares maintains his current pace, the top of the charts awaits him, one blocked shot at a time.