Five of the Most Memorable International Celtics Players
Leandro Barbosa wasn’t the first international player to wear a Celtics jersey. Here are a few more.
In the March issue of the magazine, John Fox has a good story about the rise of international players in the NBA. The focus of the piece, Brazilian point guard Leandro Barbosa, was traded from the Celtics to the Wizards on February 21, but he wasn’t the first Celtic to hail from another country. Here are a few of the most memorable:
Jiri Welsch, guard, 2003-05
The mop-haired Czech actually averaged 9.2 points per game for Boston in 2003-04. “The flow of our offense is never better than when Jiri is in the basketball game,” then-coach Jim O’Brien told the Globe in 2003. “He has a great way of reading screens, of hitting the open guy, if he doesn’t have a look. The offense just clicks.” What’s more surprising then the fact that he once nearly averaged double figures is that a Welsch highlight video exists.
Alaa Abdelnaby, center, 1992-94
The former Duke star, the first Egyptian to play in the NBA, had a decent season in 1992-93, averaging 7.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in limited minutes. (’92-’93 was Kevin McHale’s last year.) Wondering what Abdelnaby’s up to these days? He’s an analyst for CBS Sports Network. (And he’s on Twitter.)
Vitaly Potapenko, center, 1999-2002
Besides having a cool nickname, the “Ukraine Train” wasn’t much of an NBA player. But he was endearingly goofy. (Excluding the time he got arrested after arguing with his girlfriend at Logan Airport.) Fun—and scary—fact: in the star-studded 1996 draft, Potapenko was picked before Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash, Jermaine O’Neal, and Derek Fisher.
Dino Radja, forward, 1993-97
He wasn’t much of a defender, but he had moves. He could score, too. He also fired up Tommy Heinsohn, who after Radja buckets, would yell: “Bing! Bang! Boom! Radja!” The Croatian made the All-Rookie second team in ’94, and ended up playing three years for Boston before heading back to Europe. Here’s Dino lighting up the Magic in the ’95 playoffs:
Rick Fox, forward, 1991-97
Fox was born in Toronto and grew up in the Bahamas (his father is Bahamian) before starring at North Carolina. He’s probably better known for his time as a Laker and for his acting, but he began his career with the Celtics. In fact, in 1992 he became the first Celtics rookie starter on opening night since Larry Bird. Fox was never a star in Boston, but he’s probably the best international player in Celtics history. (When I was in the fourth grade, he gave me his autograph. He gets points for that, too.)