Rik Smits is a name that is synonymous with basketball greatness. The towering Dutchman spent 12 seasons in the NBA, where he earned a reputation as one of the most skilled big men in the league. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Rik Smits life and career, from his early days in the Netherlands to his dominant run with the Indiana Pacers.
Early Life and Career
Rik Smits was born on August 23, 1966, in Eindhoven, Netherlands. At a young age, he showed a natural talent for basketball, and he quickly became a standout player in his local youth leagues. Smits grew to be an imposing figure on the court, standing at a towering 7’4″ with a soft touch around the rim. Despite his impressive skills, Smits was not widely known outside of the Netherlands until he played for the Dutch national team at the 1984 European Junior Championships. He averaged 16.5 points per game and helped lead the team to a fifth-place finish, drawing the attention of scouts from around the world.
College Career at Marist
After his successful stint with the Dutch national team, Smits offered a scholarship to play college basketball at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He played for the Marist Red Foxes for four years, from 1984 to 1988, and he quickly became one of the most dominant players in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). During his college career, Smits averaged 18.3 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game, while shooting an impressive 62.4% from the field. He led the Red Foxes to two MAAC championships and earned All-Conference honors in each of his four seasons.
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NBA Career with the Indiana Pacers
Smits selected with the second overall pick in the 1988 NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers, and he quickly established himself as a force to reckon with in the league. He averaged 11.7 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game in his rookie season, earning a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First Team. Over the next few seasons, Smits continued to improve, and he became one of the most dominant centers in the league.
He was a seven-time NBA All-Star and earned All-NBA honors in 1995, when he averaged a career-high 20.9 points per game and helped lead the Pacers to the NBA Finals. Despite suffering from chronic foot injuries in the latter part of his career, Smits remained a key player for the Pacers, and he retired in 2000 as one of the most beloved players in team history. He finished his career with impressive averages of 14.8 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game, and 1.3 blocks per game.
Legacy and Impact on Dutch Basketball
Rik Smits impact on Dutch basketball cannot be overstate. He paved the way for a new generation of Dutch basketball players, inspiring countless young players to follow in his footsteps and pursue a career in the NBA. He remains one of the most beloved figures in Dutch sports history, and he is widely considered to be the greatest basketball player ever to come out of the Netherlands. Beyond his impact on Dutch basketball, Rik Smits also played a significant role in the evolution of the NBA. Also, His combination of size, skill, and finesse was ahead of its time, and he helped pave the way for the modern NBA big man. Moreover, His soft touch around the rim and his ability to knock down mid-range jumpers made him a matchup nightmare for opposing team, and his impact on the Pacers.
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