Darko Milicic was part of the famous 2003 NBA draft, and somehow he was picked before Dwyane Wade and ended up being the youngest NBA champion ever.
The 2003 draft is famously known for being one of the best draft classes of all time. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chirs Bosh were all available in the draft, and they were expected to be the top picks.
However, Milicic decided to spoil the party. The Detroit Pistons held the second overall pick, and everyone expected that they would take Wade or Carmelo, but they made perhaps the most surprising pick of the draft.
They took a relatively unknown European prospect and were happy with their choice. Of course, everyone knew that the Cavs were going to nab LeBron James with the first overall pick, but nobody thought Detroit would take Milicic second.
— Ben Stinar (@BenStinar) June 10, 2022
Is Darko Milicic the youngest ever NBA champion?
So, why did the Pistons make such a stunning choice? It comes down to a lot of factors really. He had a wide array of skills for a 7 footer, and he could use his body and size extremely well while still being mobile. Milicic was pegged as the next Dirk Nowitzki.
He was a great ball handler, could drive hard to the paint, finish in traffic, and pass the ball effectively. He would be a real unicorn on offense, being a complete nightmare for defenders back in the early 2000s.
A journalist looking to get himself established covered Darko’s play, and he compared him to Hakeem Olajuwon, Dirk Nowitzki, and Pau Gasol. The writing was on the wall for the Pistons to pick him up, but there was still no certain, hardcore evidence to show that his skills could translate to the NBA.
Milicic was drafted to a championship contending Detroit team who actually won the title in 2004, beating the Los Angeles Lakers. Milicic then became the youngest NBA champion in history, winning the title at just 18 years old. However, he was essentially a non-factor in the Pistons’ title run.
Darko Milicic is BY FAR the youngest champion in NBA history; he was 18 years old (the only teenager to win a ring). That postseason, he contributed 1 point, 3 boards, 1 assist, 1 steal and 3 turnovers in 14 minutes.
Here’s a full list of the youngest champions in NBA history: pic.twitter.com/2TUYvHKVAI
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) November 8, 2018
For his career, Milicic just averaged 6 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, and 0.9 assists per game. He put in some decent years down the line with the Timberwolves, Magic, and Grizzlies, but for a second overall pick he never lived up to his name.
When you consider that absolute studs like Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh were drafted behind him, the pick becomes even more questionable.