Darko Milicic’s lasting legacy in the NBA may come from being drafted one pick after LeBron James and before Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade.
Milicic never lived up to the lofty expectations set for him before the draft, hopping from city to city and playing for six teams in 10 seasons.
Milicic abruptly left the NBA in 2012 and returned to his native Serbia, leaving behind a legacy as a draft bust.
Milicic occasionally popped up in the news after leaving the NBA — once for an attempt to play for a Serbian basketball team and later for a brief kickboxing career.
ESPN’s Sam Borden caught up to Milicic for a long profile for ESPN.com and “E:60” and revealed that Milicic is now a content apple farmer in Serbia. According to Borden, Milicic is over his time in the NBA and now focuses on his 125-acre farm of apples. Additionally, he wants to get into farming cherries.
“See, Darko got into commercial farming after basketball. Some athletes do real estate or clothing — Darko did fruit. Don’t be confused: His farm is more Dole Plantation than Old MacDonald. He has 125 acres filled with apple trees and exports the apples to Dubai, Russia and countries in Africa.
“Cherries, though, are his vision. The financial return on cherries is tremendous, Darko says, and the market is wide open. When Darko talks about cherries, his eyes get wide. He gets passionate. He gets animated.”
According to Borden, Milicic took up agriculture after his failed kickboxing stint and quickly became hooked. He traveled to Italy to study orchards, learning about soil, tree types, and apple varieties. He has spent $8 million on his apple farm and produces over 10,000 pounds of fruit per year, according to ESPN.
Milicic — who according to Borden, made over $52 million during his career — also has a man-made lake on his property, stocked with fish, that works with a water-treatment system to irrigate the orchards. He told Borden he set it up this way because the “poop and the pee” of the fish “are good for the apples.”
Milicic seems at ease with his NBA career. He told Borden that he feels like the person that played in the NBA was another version of himself that has since died. The anger and attitude issues that afflicted him throughout his six stops in the NBA have ended. He told Borden he’s no longer punching holes in walls out of anger or blaming others for his struggles.