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Former NBA draft pick left basketball to become a farmer

Former NBA draft pick left basketball to become a farmer

Darko Milicic’s says he’d approach his pro basketball career differently after turning to agriculture

By Diego Flammini
Assistant Editor, North American Content

Darko Milicic, a former NBA player synonymous for some unhappiness, says he’s found solace as a farmer in his native Serbia.

The 6’8” center was drafted second overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 2003 NBA draft. (The Cleveland Cavaliers selected LeBron James with the first pick. Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade rounded out the top five that year.)

But, throughout his pro basketball career, Milicic appeared to carry a large chip on his shoulder.

Darko Milicic

“As a No. 2 pick coming from Europe, I thought I was sent by God, so I got into fights, got drunk before practices, spiting everyone, but I was spiting myself,” he said in an interview with Serbian news site that’s been translated into English.

After stops in Orlando, Memphis, New York, Minnesota and Boston, Milicic left the NBA in 2013. He returned to Serbia and became a cherry, apple and plum farmer.

“I'm working at my farm and enjoying that kind of production,” he said during the interview. “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.

“I think this is the most positive story of them all, food production and food in general is the future in every sense.”

Milicic said his experiences as a farmer have made him rethink his approach to the NBA.

“I’d do a lot of things differently now…,” he said. “I could say I didn’t get a proper chance, but that’s simply an excuse; it’s up to a young player to prove himself, work hard and wait for his chance.”

Milicic isn’t the only athlete to leave professional sports for agriculture.

Jason Brown, a center for the NFL’s St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams, left pro football in 2012 at the age of 29 to become a farmer.

He learned about agricultural practices by watching YouTube videos and now maintains a 1,000-acre farm in Louisburg, North Carolina. Brown produces a range of crops, including sweet potatoes and cucumbers. To date, he’s donated more than 50,000 pounds of produce to local food pantries.