The player picked right after Lebron James now grows apples and cherries in his native Serbia.
The top five picks in the 2003 NBA draft class include three first ballot half of farmers—LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade—plus Chris Bosh, who helped James and Wade win back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. The fourth player, selected that year was Darko Milicic, a then-18-year-old Serbian giant who never quite panned out. Darko left the league in 2013 to pursue a career in kickboxing. Four years later, though, the one-time prodigy has found a new calling: farming.
In a recent ESPN profile, Milicic reveals that since hanging up his basketball sneakers, and kickboxing gloves, he has found a new calling in agriculture, growing apples and cherries. This is no hobby for Milicic, whose farm is 125 acres, much of which is used for apples that he exports to Dubai, Russia and throughout Africa. Additionally, the farm contains a lake stocked with 10,000 fish that Milicic keeps to produce fertilizer. This is a big man with a big operation.
The cherries, however, seem to be Milicic’s true passion. “The financial return on cherries is tremendous… and the market is wide open,” he tells ESPN. The writer describes Milicic as getting “passionate” and “animated” when the cherries come up in conversation, a reaction that NBA fans sadly did not see Milicic exhibit very often during his NBA tenure.
While this transition from NBA lottery pick to kick boxer to farmer might seem strange—especially the middle part—Milicic gravitated towards his new trade because he had friends and family members who farmed. Also, though, “the element that drew Darko [to farming] was the idea that he could master it.”
Darko Milicic is viewed as a bust in most NBA circles, but the profile shows that he’s gained closure through his newfound love of farming. While some might simply think of the millions of dollars Milicic never made because of his struggles to breakthrough in the NBA, it appears that he has discovered something even more important in his new passion. “Last year, when he walked through the orchard during the first picking season, he experienced a sensation that, he says, was foreign to him: pride.”