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Beloved free agent big man Boris Diaw is leaving the NBA after 14 seasons.
The 35-year-old coffee- and wine-loving Frenchmen is reportedly returning to his home country to play in France’s top-tier professional basketball league for the Levallois Metropolitans in Paris.
Diaw captured MVP honors of the same French league as a 20-year-old before being drafted by 21st overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 2003. He entered the NBA as a shooting guard before being traded to Phoenix and rising to prominence as a Most Improved Player award recipient and versatile frontcourt weapon for the seven-seconds-or-less Suns. After a brief NBA stopover in Charlotte, he spent another four-plus seasons in San Antonio, serving as a wily veteran and key cog in the Spurs’ 2014 title run.
Diaw played last season for the 51-win Utah Jazz, making his 10th playoff appearance in 14 years and even starting at center when Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Rudy Gobert went down with an injury in the first round. Diaw averaged 8.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists during his NBA career.
While Diaw’s playmaking, floor-stretching and all-around savvy made him an integral part of two of the league’s most entertaining teams of this century, it was his off-court antics that made him so popular in NBA circles. He is an accomplished photographer who rode a Segway to games, installed an espresso machine in his locker, wrote children’s books about exotic animals and sang at karaoke bars.
“When you talk to Boris Diaw, what a classical human being he is,” Bill Walton once said. “It was 201 years ago today, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat, which escorted in the age of romanticism, and when I look at Boris Diaw, I think of Beethoven and the age of the Romantics. This guy has got it all.”
Whether from his love of wine or international cuisine or age, Diaw struggled with weight in his later years, so much so that the Spurs included $500,000 in incentives if he didn’t gain pounds during the season and coach Gregg Popovich kept him in during garbage time “so you can lose some weight.”
But let’s not forget that Diaw, in his prime, was an athletic specimen. This unforgettable anecdote from former Suns executive David Griffin in a 2014 ESPN.com feature is quintessential Bobo:
And for anyone saddened by his departure, don’t lose hope on Diaw riding his Segway Stateside again:
Or, he’ll just make that one-way mission to Mars he entertained. With Boris Diaw, you never know.
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