Darko Milicic holds an unenviable mantel in NBA history—as one of the league's biggest draft busts of all time.
Though he failed to hold a candle to his pre-draft hype during a 10-year career, according to him, he struggled even more off the court.
"I'd do a lot of things differently now. It's true that I ended up on a team that was trying to win a ring, which rarely happens to a #2 pick, but in the end, we're all looking for alibis," Milicic said in a recent interview in Serbia, as translated by r/NBA's Tyrone_Lue. "I could say i didn't get a proper chance. However, that's simply an alibi; it's up to a young player to prove himself, work hard and wait for his chance. My approach was completely different, as a #2 pick coming from Europe I thought I was sent by God. So I got into fights, got drunk before practices, spiting everyone, while in the end, I was spiting myself."
Things just got worse for Darko in Detroit:
I had issues with everyone, and that was caused by me playing just for myself. My goal wasn't to silence the critics, it was to silence my ego. Tonight I want to feed my ego, so I'll play a great game against Duncan or Gasol. Tomorrow, we have a totally irrelevant game against a center that's 10 times weaker so I'll put up another great game and become a consistent player because that's what they want from me. But I simply couldn't, I wasn't ready or willing to put in the work…
So yeah, I was the problem. That initial dissatisfaction probably led to me starting to hate and not enjoy playing. There were some situations where I've already scored 20 points, but in my head I'm thinking: "When will this game finally end, come on, let's pack it up and go home." I just had to feed my ego, I couldn't care less what's going to happen the following week. My whole approach since coming to the US was just wrong. I could say I was too young back then, but I chose to go there myself and I obviously wasn't prepared for what the league would require from me.
In February 2006, Milicic was traded to the Orlando Magic for Kelvin Cato and a 2007 first-rounder, where he backed up Dwight Howard. Things were looking up, until he still didn't end up drawing the interested he expected from NBA teams.
I really enjoyed it [in Orlando] since Day 1. Physically I was fresh since I haven't really played for 3 years. Unfortunately, the coach just didn't see me and Dwight playing together although I thought it could easily work out. He'd stuff the paint, I'd be a threat from outside, it would've been great. I had some nice games in a year and a half there, so I was expecting some nice offers. No offers came though, since everyone was thinking I had mental issues and was a risk. That's where I got disappointed even more. The only thing I told my manager was I'll go anywhere but Memphis, just don't send me to Memphis.
Of course I went to Memphis, where I went through 2 years of classic depression. I was just crossing the dates off the calendar because I couldn't function anymore. Physically you're there, but mentally you aren't. Whatever you do, there's no chance of being successful. It was really hard. Mentally, I was completely worn out. Everyone has bad periods in their careers, but it was harder for me since my whole experience was negative and that wasn't what I expected.
If you want to play in the NBA, you need to be consistent. You can bring 15 points and 10 rebounds to the table, but you have to bring it every day. I was playing when I felt like it, otherwise it was tough to find any motivation.
For all his mistakes, props to Milicic for recognizing his role in his NBA experience. It would be easy to make excuses, but he seems comfortable accepting responsibility for his play and attitude stateside.
Now, still just 31 years old, Milicic is a 350-pound farmer in his home country and seems to enjoy it.
"I've gained 90 pounds since I stopped playing, I'm at 350 right now. I'm working at my farm and enjoying that kind of production. I take walks through my fields and watch the process, which makes me really happy. I'm still pretty inexperienced at this so I like to learn, seek guidance, go to seminars," he said. "I've created my own peace of mind and I'm enjoying it. There's always problems like in any other field of work, but I'd rather do this than build skyscrapers in the city because I'd end up shooting myself. I think this is the most positive story of them all, food production and food in general is the future in every sense."