If you haven’t heard, there’s a 7’3” rookie from Eastern Europe who is making waves in the NBA this year. He’s got towering height, a shooter’s touch, an interesting accent, and about 50 pounds of muscle on Porzingis. I’m talking of course about the Chimney of Kostelac himself, Boban Marjanovic. Sure the Serbian is massive, but he’s so much more than just that. Here are a few things you might not know about the most exciting player in basketball.
1. He’s a massive human being
Let’s start with the obvious. Boban towers over everyone at 7’3”, including most NBA centers. After looking up the tallest structure in Serbia, Bill Land dubbed Marjanovic: “The Chimney of Kostolac.” Even in a league full of huge people, he is still remarkably huge by comparison He is one of the 20 tallest players in NBA history, and the third tallest in the league right now.
His tremendous height isn’t just a novelty or some kind of circus attraction. As you can imagine, that size is somewhat helpful to him on the basketball court. He can block shots without jumping, and his massive 7’8” wingspan allows him to suck in rebounds and passes like a black hole. If he gets the ball anywhere near the rim, there is a very good chance he will dunk all over anything that happens to be in his way.
2. He’s built like a truck
It seems like most guys over 7 feet are either rail-thin or borderline obese, but you see those muscles right? He’s beefy enough to avoid knee injuries and lean enough to run the floor. This isn’t some eastern European beanpole that can get manhandled by a shorter but stronger player. This dude is a tank. When he backs his man down in the paint, the poor guy either has to hold on for dear life and commit a foul or get shoved out of the play. We haven’t seen him play extended minutes in the NBA yet, but he takes care of his body well enough that stamina shouldn’t be a problem. Marjanovic is a combination of height and athleticism that is usually only seen when you create a player in NBA 2K.
3. He strikes fear into the hearts of his opponents
He doesn’t play dirty or talk trash, but when you’re 7’3” and ripped you don’t need to do that to scare the hell out of everyone. He’s a fearsome presence in the paint on both ends of the floor, and he’s an absolute nightmare to play against. The range of emotion for his opponents goes from “What’s the point?” to “OH GOD PLEASE DON’T HURT ME!”
Here’s an example of the former:
And the latter:
6’9” Tyler Hansbrough looks like a small, terrified child, and who wouldn’t?
4. He’s a dunking machine
Ordinarily San Antonio Spurs fans don’t see too many dunks, but when you’re that tall it doesn’t make sense to not throw it down. He’s a huge target in the lane with soft hands, and his teammates are starting to realize that if you give him the ball anywhere near the basket he can just reach up over the defender and gently place the ball in the hoop. He isn’t always gentle though, as evidenced here:
And here where he hangs on the rim in ridiculous fashion:
And here where he literally dunks on the two Sixers that try to stop him:
The best part about a Boban dunk is that he barely has to jump to do it.
5. He’s got mad skills
“So he’s huge and scary and dunks, what makes him any different than DeAndre Jordan?” Well, first of all he can hit a free throw, and he actually went 8/8 from the line the other night against Denver. In addition to that, he’s a truly skilled all-around basketball player. He hails from a part of the world that emphasizes the fundamentals even for big guys, and it shows in his game. He’s smart and learning, he can shoot it if he wants to, and his passing is much better than you would expect from someone his size. If you don’t believe me, that’s fine, I was prepared for that.
Exhibit A: This utterly ridiculous behind the back no look pass (He broke the rim on a dunk in the same game by the way):
Exhibit B: Thilook, likere he makes Jahlil Okafor look like a lost puppy before draining one with the shot clock expiring:
Exhibit C: Be still, my beating heart:
Boban update: He’s whipping spinning passes to Danny Green for corner 3s after practice. Lots of English on them. Green: “It’s like Manu.”
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) December 17, 2015
Exhibit D: Banging corner 3’s like Steph Curry:
Walked into the ATT Center just in time to catch Boban swishing corner 3s. pic.twitter.com/oXBZFmywSB
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) December 28, 2015
Player Efficiency Rating is a measure of a player’s per minute productivity. Boban technically doesn’t qualify for the stat because he’s averaging 6 minutes a game, but if he did, he would be ranked first in the league, just ahead of Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook. Is that good?
6. He’s a hard worker
Marjanovic is an NBA rookie at 27, and all reports indicate that he is working incredibly hard to catch up to his peers. He spends extra time working on his game at practice to make up for his lack of game minutes, and his work ethic has elicited praise from fans, teammates, and coaches. He hustles after loose balls, clearly puts in work in the weight room, and very rarely looks like a lazy big guy who uses his size as an excuse to not work. He wants to be much more than just big, and he’s putting in the work to get there.
7. He’s a great teammate
By all accounts, Bobi is a great guy to have around the locker room. He has earned the respect of his teammates with his strong work ethic and eagerness to learn, and he’s also apparently a fun guy to be around. Pop says he has a good sense of humor, and according to Patty Mills, he loves to rap. Kyle Anderson claims that Boban’s rendition of “Big Rings” is hilarious, and I don’t doubt that for a second. On top of that, he’s apparently just a really good guy. He greets everyone with a smile and a handshake, loves to sign autographs for fans, and he’s friendly to everyone he meets.
8. He’s tough as nails
In his last season with Red Star Belgrade, Marjanovic risked his NBA dream to play on a broken foot in the championship against his team’s archrival. Now when I say rival, don’t equate it to anything you’ve seen in the states. Red Star Belgrade vs. Partizan is closer to a war than a sporting event. Every game has hundreds of police in riot gear, and they need to get involved very regularly. The picture below is from a soccer match between the two clubs.
Fans threw stun grenades, flares, and stadium chairs, injuring 35 police officers. It has been said that Serbian hooligans are more violent than the English and better choreographed than the Italians. Fans brawl, players brawl, and traumatic head injuries are had by all. So when the three-time Serbian Super League MVP broke his foot before the championship, he decided put his team first and play on it. He didn’t change the game like he usually did because, well, his foot was broken, but Red Star swept the series. That kind of selflessness will fit right in in San Antonio.
9. He gets the people going
Boban Mania is sweeping the nation, and I’m only sort of kidding about that. For some reason that I just can’t put my finger on, he’s become a cult hero in San Antonio. The AT&T Center crowd buzzes with excitement whenever he checks in, and the entire arena erupts whenever he does anything at all. He blew the roof off the place the other night against Minnesota when he closed the third quarter with three straight buckets. It may very well be because he’s a spectacularly large human, but nobody can deny that Boban’s mere presence electrifies the home crowd and energizes his teammates.
Here’s what Boban had to say about the atmosphere: “I really like it when the first time I touch the ball: Dunk! I put the ball in the rim and really like how people react: ‘Ooh.’ They give me wind to my back and really help me to warm up for rest of the game.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
10. He’s in a perfect situation
If he were on any other team everyone would be asking the same two questions: “What’s his ceiling?” and “How reliable is he?” People don’t worry too much about those questions in the player development capital of the NBA though. Marjanovic would start on a lot of other teams, and some might even try to make him the focus of the offense. In San Antonio, he doesn’t need to do too much and he gets to hone his craft under the tutelage of basketball royalty.
This guy is a rookie with solid fundamentals, a strong work ethic, and an eagerness to learn and improve. Whenever Boban comes off the court he receives immediate feedback from Pop and/or Tim, and you can see that he craves it and absorbs it. A guy this big, talented, and studious being taught by an all time great coach and one of the best to ever man the low block is pretty terrifying.
Outside of his pick and roll defense, what’s not to love about this guy? He’s a massive, terrifying dunking machine and so much more. Marjanovic has a bright future in the NBA because of his size and skill. He has an even brighter future as a Spur because of his work ethic, attitude, and willingness to learn.