Some readers of this site have been pushing for this post. The site’s co-creator, Alex, said that I had to do it given my Dutch heritage and I didn’t disagree. I’ve been saying for years that Rik Smits was the exact same player as Yao Ming, he just played during a different era and didn’t enter with quite as much hype. Still, given his relatively modest career numbers (especially since he was a lottery pick), it’s pretty easy to say that Rik Smits is just another one of the great, white, mediocre centers in NBA history.
Smits was born in Eindhoven, Netherlands in 1966. He moved to the United States in 1984 and enrolled at Marist University to play basketball. Smits made a name for himself in the States while at Marist. He averaged nearly 25 points and 9 boards a game as a senior at Marist and was then drafted by the Indiana Pacers with the second pick of the 1988 draft (Danny Manning went first).
The Dunking Dutchman started his career as a backup in Indiana, but quickly moved into the starting lineup due to some injuries. For his career, Smits started nearly 90% of the games he played in, including 71 in his rookie season. That rookie season, Smits took home his only career award as a member of the All-Rookie first team (he did make an All Star team in 1998). Nice.
In his second season, the clumsy Smits led the NBA in personal fouls as he had trouble keeping his massive 7’4” frame under control. Smits went on to be the starting center for some really great Pacers teams in the 1990s before retiring with a 14.8 points per game average and 6.1 rebounds. Those are some mediocre numbers.
However, if one were to dig deeper, Smits was a very productive player who produced at an impressive rate. Smits minutes were usually limited by his size and fouls. For his career he only averaged 26 minutes per game. So, say for example he played actual starter minutes (let’s say 36 minutes a game), it wouldn’t be insane to see Smits putting up 20 points and 10 boards a game. In other words, Rik Smits is the ORIGINAL Yao Ming.
Both Ming and Smits possessed a series of low post moves to go with terrific range on their jump shots. Both players also excelled at the free throw line. For his career, Smits shot over 50% from the field and over 77% from the charity stripe. An unheard of combination in today’s modern center.
Smits retired after the 1999-2000 season. Since then he has spent his time collecting and racing old school motorbikes. I’m not kidding. Picture a giant like that on a motorbike. Or better yet, click here.