People also search Google for Tiago Splitter, Wally Szczerbiak, and Kwame Brown, when searching for the former Raptors centre Rasho Nesterović. I wonder why. My guess: some combination of appearance, personality, and talent level.
Today’s entry is, yes, none other than big man Rasho Nesterović, a guy who played hard and smart for Toronto. While he wasn’t the most talented big man in the league, he meant something good to the Raptors. It’s true.
His Raptors Run
Nesterovic, the Slovenian centre, played for the Raptors twice. His first stint marked the end of fan favourite Matt Bonner’s time as a Raptor: On June 21, 2006. Bonner, Eric Williams, and a 2009 2nd round draft choice went to San Antonio for Nesterović and cash.
(Note: The pick, which was acquired from New Orleans in an Aaron Williams trade, was used to select guard Jack McClinton. According to Wikipedia, McClinton, who did not play in the NBA, and Carlos Boozer co-founded a men’s swimwear company called Loaded Dock.)
In 2006-07, the Sam Mitchell Coach Of The Year and Bryan Colangelo Executive of The Year season (which was obviously, and I’m not writing this tongue-in-cheek, a result of this trade in particular), Nesterovic averaged 6.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 21 minutes per game.
The following season, Nesterovic put up 7.8 points per game and 4.5 rebounds on career-high 55 percent shooting from the field. He averaged slightly fewer minutes per game this time around: 20.9.
Then, his time with the Raptors ended as a part of the Jermaine O’Neal trade. He, T.J. Ford, Maceo Baston (!!), and the pick that became Roy Hibbert went to Indiana for O’Neal and the pick that became Nathan Jawai (!!).
After a year apart, Nesterovic returned on a $1.9M deal for one season, put up 3.9 points and 2.1 rebounds per game in 42 games in what would be his last season in the NBA.
The Wikipedia Fun-Fact Deep-Dive
Researching for an article like this about a basketball player like this — a world champion with the Spurs, mind you, and a renowned international player for Slovenia — involves a fair bit of Wikipedia.
While there’s some interesting information on there, like the bit about Nesterovic being Luka Donçic’s godfather or that he speaks five languages (Serbian, Slovenian, Greek, Italian, and English), the note about his nickname stood out.
Citing only a single page from a December 2006 SLAM Magazine article, the Wikipedia authors include this.
“While playing for the Raptors, he was nicknamed Nestea as the fans found it “refreshing to have a true center.”
Hold up. I don’t remember this. Was this, uh, a thing?
Also, on Wikipedia, there were very specific details about Nesterovic’s first three-point shot.
On April 2, 2008, at 7:34 pm EST, Nesterović hit his first three-point shot ever in the regular season, with a pump fake, for a buzzer beater against the Atlanta Hawks, in Atlanta.
Here it is:
Where Are They Now?
After he finished his NBA career, Nesterović signed a two-year deal with Olympiacos and was released in July 2011. The 1996 FIBA Europe U20 Championship MVP has a family and five kids, and, last any news of him seems to mention, he’s Secretary-General of the Basketball Federation of Slovenia.
And, you know what, while we’re at it: Take a trip down Stephen A memory lane. The Stephen and Skip arguing show, “Cold Pizza,” talked contenders and favourites for the championship and the rest was history. Skip to the 2:00 mark for mention of a “secret weapon.”