|20 December 2011|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Stojakovic won the title with Dallas but spent the best years of his NBA career at Sacramento, which he joined from PAOK Salonica at the age of 21 |
Serbia's Predrag (Peja) Stojakovic, one of the most prolific shooters in NBA history, has decided to retire at the age of 34.
The sharpshooter is leaving the game because of back and neck problems that have plagued him in recent campaigns.
Having spent the majority of his career with the Sacramento Kings (1998-2006), Stojakovic also played for Indiana, New Orleans, Toronto and Dallas.
He helped fire the Mavs to their first NBA title last season after joining the team in January.
"I feel so blessed to have been given the athletic gifts to play professional basketball," Stojakovic said in a statement.
"I have always loved the game and have great respect for it and I know the time is right to step away. I promised myself a long time ago, if it came to the point where my heart and body were not 100% committed, I would step away.
"I have reached that point and I know the time is right to retire.
"I want to thank the great fans in Sacramento, Indiana, New Orleans, and Dallas who supported me throughout the years.
"I also want to thank the Dallas Mavericks for believing in me this past season and for giving me the chance to end my NBA career with a championship."
Stojakovic averaged 17 points per contest in his career and buried 40% of his shots from long range.
His 1,740 three-pointers are fourth most in league history.
With the former Yugoslavia, he travelled to Istanbul in 2001 and led the team to the EuroBasket gold medal by shooting a scalding 51.4% (18 of 35) and averaging 23 points per game, which was second only to Germany's Dirk Nowitzki (28.7pts).
Stojakovic led Yugoslavia in scoring at 18.8 points per game the following year in Indianapolis as they won the FIBA World Championship.
His last appearance with the national team came at EuroBasket 2003 in Sweden.
Playing for Serbia and Montenegro, Stojakovic averaged 18.8 points per contest as they finished sixth.
They fell to eventual champions Lithuania in the Quarter-Finals of that tournament.
Nowitzki, who was the FIBA Europe Player of the Year in 2005 and also the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2007, had been as happy as any of the Mavs when Stojakovic joined the team last season.
"The first time I saw him at practice shooting, I knew his stroke was still there," Nowitzki said.
Stojakovic began playing professional basketball at the age of 14 with Red Star Belgrade and later moved to Greece to play for PAOK.
He launched his NBA career following the end of the first NBA lockout back in 1998 and played with the Sacramento Kings until 2006.
After a short stint with Indiana, he spent several years in New Orleans before signing off with a title in Dallas.
Stojakovic's impact was so great that NBA commissioner David Stern issued a statement to praise his contributions to the game.
Stern said: "Peja will go down as one of the great shooters in the history of the NBA. His success was the result of a tireless work ethic and an unquenchable desire to be the best at what he did.
"Peja's legacy, however, goes way beyond his 3-point skills and that elusive Finals title he won last season with the Dallas Mavericks.
"Peja was part of the wave of international stars that helped introduce the world to the NBA game and inspired thousands of fans to begin playing the sport of basketball."
Stojakovic is ready to begin a new chapter in his life.
"I look forward to taking some time to spend with my wife, Aleka, and my three children," Stojakovic said.
"I will slowly figure out the next steps in my life and determine what my second career will be. I'm sure I will stay involved in basketball in general and the NBA in particular."