Commemorating HV Sports Legend Rik Smits Memorable Playing Career
It was twenty years ago this week NBA All-Star and Marist College graduate Rik Smits retired from a memorable playing career with both the Pacers and Red Foxes. He was born in the Netherland and made it all the way to the highest levels of the NBA and his path to professional basketball led through Poughkeepsie.
Smits, affectionately nicknamed 'Dunking Dutchman', would spend four years leading the Marist College program to multiple conference championships and NCAA tournament appearances alongside a talented group of teammates. According to an article from the NBA, he didn't even start playing basketball until he was 15 but the seven-foot four-inch center progressed quickly in the three years he had before connecting with coach Dave McGarrity at Marist.
Smits leads Marist to the 1987 NCAA Tournament
His success caught the attention of the NBA's Indiana Pacers who took him with the number two pick overall in the 1988 draft just one year after selecting the talented Reggie Miller. The two went on to form a powerful one-two punch that would contend with the best teams in the league yearly but never quite got over the hump to win a championship.
In September of 2000 after losing to the LA Lakers in the NBA finals, Smits called it a career siting a series of foot and knee injuries that were affecting his quality of life. But in an era where he was competing against some of the best big men of all time like Shaq, Patrick Ewing, and Hakeem Olajuwon, the 'Dunking Dutchman' more than held his own.
In 2019 Smits moved back to Indiana to be closer to family. His daughter Jasmine works for the Pacers in the player development department and his seven-foot one son Derrik had just transferred to play with the Butler Bulldogs.