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Although this one dates back before me in what was my toddler years, the 2003 NBA draft is generally seen as one of it not the best draft class in league history. Bringing a generational offensive juggernaut in Carmelo Anthony, multiple time champions in Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, and to everyone’s own for the goat argument. But the best player I’ve ever seen in LeBron James. 2003 produced a number of other all star’s as well, however, what went under the radar then and has been forgotten since is that it also featured not only possibly the fattest player in professional basketball, but one of the game’s biggest personalities overseas. Introducing Sofoklis Schortsanitis, aka big sofo and for obvious reasons Baby Shaq. Sofo was originally born in Cameroon, but moved and spent his childhood playing basketball in Greece. He was advised to play against his wished at first but the sport grew on him over time. He had a couple of ridiculous growth spurts during these years, at times growing 4-5 inches a month. Sporting up so fast that at times he couldn’t walk for weeks. By age 17, he’d established himself as a solid player in the Greek First Division. But his eyes were already set on making the league, upon entering the draft. Sofo’s excessive weight at 6’9 310lbs was seen as one of his flaws as a prospect, despite being exceptionally quick for his size. With OG Shaq Diesel departing for Miami, a year under over later. Room was made for a second exponentially large force in LA, and come the 36th pick in the second round. Baby Shaq was selected by the Los Angeles Clippers… essentially already cementing his legacy as a bottler or for comedy’s sake ‘LIDL Shaq’. The Clippers ended up stashing the Fatman overseas, probably to get himself together and lay off the big macs. His first major step forward in the right direction came in 2005, when he signed with Greek Euroleague powerhouse Olympiakos and become a solid role player, The following year came arguably the greatest feat of his career, his 14 points and 7 rebounds off the bench helped Greece upset a USA team that included Carmelo, D-wade and LeBron James in the 2006 FIBA world cup semi-final. They’d then go onto lose to Spain in the final. For his country again in 2009, Sofo was a major contributor in Greece’s third-place finish at Eurobasket. Scoring 23 points on 78% field goal shooting against Slovenia securing a bronze medal. However, not long after, his weight got completely out of control and any chance of making the NBA went up with his increasing weight.
His short temper did his case no favors either: his history of meltdowns includes a khabib Ron Artest like attacking a fan and his involvement in a huge brawl against Serbia. By the 2007-08 season, he was reportedly about 400 lbs and despite making the effort of losing weight, such as joining a health clinic in Switzerland. Sofo continued fluctuating within the 300 and 400+ pound range. His body size limited him to an off-the-bench role and resulted in several career-threatening injuries through the years. He still had many prolific moments in the last 10 years of his career: in 2009, he faced the real Shaq in an NBA preseason game, apparently dunking on him and shoving into the crowd. Perhaps the only player to bully O’Neal. There’s also a clip of him giving LeBron some kinda treatment when backing him down on the block. Bron took the easy weight out and hugged his whole large body. He’s a legend over in Europe, he’s won it all in Greece from a cup, leagues to MVP. He made the all euro league first team in 2011 and clinched his one and only Euroleague title in 2014. Averaging 10 a game. Today Sofo is still playing pro basketball, and his rights are owned by Oklahoma City, although there is no chance that he ever makes it to the Nba at this point. That ship done sailed in the 2017-18 season in the Greek league where he looked the most out of shape in his career, he played just 1 game. And that came after being sidelined for almost 2 years with an Achilles tendon rupture. Overall Sofo is a classic, “old school” style center that plays in the low post on offense, defends the rim and holds it down as a big body in the paint. At this point, he’s quite realistically 6’10 pushing 450 lbs.
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