From hoops to hooks

Ed C. Tolentino

Ed C. Tolentino

While a clearly undersized Manny Pacquiao is trying to find a niche in pro basketball, a former player for the National Basketball Association (NBA), Darko Milicic, is all set to take off his jersey and put on the gloves for a shot at professional kickboxing.

The 29-year-old Milicic, a native of Serbia, figures to literally cast a huge shadow in the ring. The dude stands 7-feet and tips the scale at around 250 pounds. Without an NBA contract for the last two years, Milicic recently inked a deal with the World Kickboxing Association (WKA).

For his own sake, let’s hope Milicic’s campaign in the WKA will not be as dismal as his stint in the NBA. Milicic was a the No.2 pick overall in the 2003 NBA draft, selected by the Detroit Pistons just after LeBron James went to Cleveland. Believe it or not, the Pistons bypassed Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh just to get their hands on Milicic. He spent 10 years with the Pistons, picked an NBA title in 2004, before taking his act to Orlando, Memphis, New York, Minnesota and Boston. Milicic was a huge disappointment in the NBA, his best season coming in 2010-11 with Minnesota when he averaged 8.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game (5th overall in the NBA that season). Overall, he averaged just 6.0 points and 4.2 rebounds in 468 games.

Milicic announced his retirement from NBA action in June 2013. Later that year, he developed an interest in kickboxing after he attended a humanitarian campaign and raised funds by auctioning a kickboxing world title belt.

Milicic is not the first former NBA player to make a foray into a gloved sport. Chicago native Kendall Gill, who saw action for seven NBA teams (Charlotte, Seattle, New Jersey, Miami, Minnesota, Chicago and Milwaukee) from 1990 until 2005, entered pro boxing in June 2005 at age 37. He fought three times in 2005, went inactive for the next four years before figuring in his last fight in April 2010. Campaigning in the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions, Gill compiled a record of 4-0 with 3 knockouts.

Unlike Milicic, Gill dabbled into martial arts during his younger days. And, oh, Gill enjoyed a more impressive career in the NBA, averaging 13.4 points and 3.0 assists per game.

While Milicic definitely has the size to compete in kickboxing, it remains to be seen if he has the heart, the punch and the kick to be a slam dunk in his new passion. He better be ready because in any gloved sport, the saying “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” applies to big guys like him.

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