We don’t know a lot about Arvydas Sabonis. We know that he’s widely considered the greatest player in European history that didn’t play in the NBA during his prime. We know that some combination of Cold War politics, injuries and a desire to remain close to home kept him in Europe for years before he came to the NBA. We know that when he came to the United States, his head was roughly the size of a Smart Car. We know that he used to rock a pretty slick ‘stache. That’s about it.
Here are two more things we can add to the list: He’s a great arm wrestler and he can get his drink on. From Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams:
The legend of Sabonis grew after the game. The United States would play Croatia in the gold-medal game eight hours later, allowing for a time gap between the bronze game and the award ceremony. Sabonis and his teammates ventured back to the Olympic dormitory, where Sabonis challenged fellow Olympians in arm wrestling for shots. One by one, wrestlers and shot putters among them, Sabonis beat them. By the time of the award ceremony, three Lithuanians did not make it to the podium. Sabonis was one of them. “I knew how they used to roll,” said Chris Mullin, part of the United States’ Dream Team. “I think they came out with their tie-dye on. They did what the Deadheads do. They got loosened up. Made use of their free time.”
Sabonis was located a couple of days later in one of the women’s Olympic dormitories.
Let’s all agree that that’s a pretty great mental image to have. Arvydas Sabonis, fresh off a bronze medal-winning performance, besting a bunch of random huge Olympians in arm wrestling matches while getting more and more drunk until he can’t even go accept his medal, despite that being his personal greatest triumph. If there were some way to get a video of this, it’d get all of the YouTube plays.
Go read all of Abrams’ piece because it’s really excellent and filled with things like Bill Walton saying that he wishes he would have “punched Rasheed Wallace in the nose” when he threw a towel in Sabonis’ face and that he “let Sabonis and the game of basketball and the human race down that day” because he didn’t. But if for some reason you don’t like amazing stories of Hall of Famers, just realize that Arvydas Sabonis is super awesome and would be one of the biggest Internet superstars in the world if he played in today’s NBA. Between that proclamation and the Hall of Fame, it’s been a pretty decent couple days for the big guy.