The 2003 NBA Draft unfolded thusly: LeBron James chosen at No. 1, then Darko Milicic, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade heard their names called.
One of those names sticks out for unfortunate reasons.
Milicic, the Serbian 7-footer to whom Detroit pinned its hopes, would play for five other teams throughout his 10-year pro career, including three seasons with Minnesota. "Don’t trade for me, for the love of God. I don’t want to play in the NBA anymore; I’ll ruin your team," he told the Timberwolves in 2009, who, of course, gave him $20 million instead.
Milicic is now considered one of the biggest busts in basketball history.
Recently, ESPN's E:60 program profiled Milicic, taking a deep dive into the disappointment, sullenness, drinking, profanity, and temper that defined his career, which sputtered out by age 27. Now 32 and living in a Serbian mansion, Milicic finally seems content, aided no doubt by the $52.3 million he bagged playing hoops.
He's painfully self-aware, too. Reporter Sam Borden says Darko used the word "bust" a half-dozen times during their first 10 minutes together. The E:60 piece is loaded with candid nuggets (apparently another ex-Wolf, Chauncey Billups, taught Darko about post-game showers), but Milicic's newfound passion for farming is the most intriguing.
That's right: The famous NBA bust is betting big on booming apple crops. Milicic invested around $8 million into a 125-acre commercial farm that exports apples to Dubai, Russia, and several African countries. He's super into it.
"I was just really happy," Milicic tells ESPN, remembering his first picking season. "You know, we were picking our apples. Ours."
The former center is giddy at the thought of planting cherry trees. He even built a carp-stocked lake for fertilizer and irrigation -- "The poop and the pee are good for the apples," he points out.
And the farming life seems good for Darko. His three children attend private school. His wife, Zorana, runs a fashion line. Milicic has a fleet of luxury cars -- including a Porsche Panamera still sporting Minnesota plates -- to zoom him to the farm.
"I really came to hate basketball, you know?" Darko confessed. "I just wanted to come back home and live another life."
Catch the E:60 video feature on Milicic this Sunday at 8 a.m. on ESPN.
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