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That whole thing was being at the forefront — and in the middle — of a globalization that has transformed the sport. In 1989, he helped persuade Marciulionis to sign with the Golden State team his dad coached. Eastern Europeans Drazen Petrovic, Vlade Divac, Toni Kukoc and others also came to the NBA about the same time the Berlin Wall fell. “I grew up shagging balls for the old Celtics, so I knew what an NBA player looked, breathed and smelled like,” Nelson said. “So I would come back and say, ‘Hey, Dad, there’s a Larry Bird over there, only this guy is 7-4.’ When you’re over there and actually locking horns with them, you realize these guys belong.” That 7-4 Larry Bird to whom Nelson referred was former Soviet and EuroLeague superstar Arvydas Sabonis. He was drafted by Portland in 1986 but didn’t arrive in the NBA until nearly a decade later after foot injuries had robbed him of his mobility. Minneapolis Star-Tribune
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