With Golden State Warriors recording a 4-2 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, Andrew Bogut has become the fifth Australian to win an NBA Championship.
Hailing from Endeavour Hills in Melbourne, Bogut was a talented junior who honed his skills as a teenager with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). Representing them in 2003, he earned the MVP, Australian Youth Player of the Year and a spot on the All-Star five team in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL).
He starred on a national level in 2003 when Australia won the 2003 FIBA Junior World Championships. Bogut was named MVP, averaging an impressive 26 points, 17 rebounds (6.6 offensive), 2.5 assists, 1.5 blocks and one steal. He recorded three 20-20 games including a 39 point, 25 rebound effort against Croatia.
In his international career for Australia, Bogut averaged 14.8 points while finishing fourth for rebounds (8.8) and fifth for blocks (1.2) at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. He led his country in points and rebounds at the 2006 FIBA World Championships before finishing fourth overall for field goal percentage (60%) at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Bogut will soon represent Australia once again when they take on New Zealand in the FIBA Oceania Championship on the road to Rio 2016.
The Aussie moved to the US in 2003, beginning a two-season college stint for the Utah Utes. He averaged a double-double (16.6 points, 11.1 rebounds) while shooting 60%, winning Freshman of the Year in the Mountain West Conference in 2004 before earning the Naismith College Player of the Year award and making first team All-American in 2005.
Those accolades led Bogut to make history as the first Australian to be taken as the number one draft pick in the NBA when the Milwaukee Bucks selected him for the 2005-06 season. Helping the Bucks to improve their win-tally by 10 on the previous year, Bogut reached the playoffs while also making the All-Rookie first team and finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting.
In the following years at Milwaukee, the centre was hampered by injuries with a sprained left foot forcing him to miss the end of a disappointing 2006-07 season. He bounced back to start in 78 games in 2007-08 before stress fractures in his back caused him to miss more than half of the next season.
Statistically, Bogut was at the height of his career in 2009-10, averaging 15.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game to help Milwaukee to the sixth seed. He won Player of the Week in the East Conference in March and made the All-NBA third team, the first Australian to do so.
However, less than a fortnight before the playoffs, he suffered a horrific injury after falling on a dunk. Landing awkwardly on his right arm, the Aussie broke his right hand and a finger, sprained his right wrist and dislocated his elbow.
He returned to play 65 games in 2010-11, leading the league in blocks with 2.6 a game. The following season was already shortened due to a lock-out but injuries kept him from all but 12 games and Bogut was subsequently traded to Golden State.
Recurring ankle problems in 2012-13 saw him play 32 games but he managed to compete in all 12 of the Warriors’ playoff matches, recording double-figures for rebounds in six games to average seven points and 11 boards.
In the past two NBA seasons, Bogut’s injuries have been less severe and he has become one of the league’s elite rim protectors. He finished second in both 2013-14 and 2014-15 for defensive rating, making the All-Defensive Second Team (which earned him a monetary bonus of almost US$2 million) while recording a career high for blocks (nine) in April 2015.
Against quality opposition in the likes of Anthony Davis, Omer Asik, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Dwight Howard and Timofey Mozgov, Bogut has performed admirably and controlled the paint while also proving himself to be one of the best passers on a team filled with gifted ball-handlers.
Joining the exalted list of Luc Longley, Andrew Gaze, Aron Baynes and Patty Mills, Bogut has added an NBA ring to his list of awards after ten years in the league.
At age 30 and contracted until 2017 in the NBA, Bogut is now arguably Australia’s greatest-ever basketballer. He will be firmly focused on qualifying Australia for the 2016 Olympic Games in the FIBA Oceania Championship series against New Zealand, before aiming at a back-to-back NBA Championship next season.