I was a first-round pick in the NBA – but I unexpectedly quit the league to take up record-breaking contract offer

NIKOLA Mirotic achieved his dream of playing in the NBA – but has swapped it for a return to Europe.

The former Chicago Bulls forward, 32, left the league behind in 2019 to join Spanish team Barcelona.

Nikola Mirotic spent seven seasons in the NBA

Nikola Mirotic spent seven seasons in the NBACredit: Getty

The 6-foot-10 star left the league behind in 2019 to return to Europe

The 6-foot-10 star left the league behind in 2019 to return to EuropeCredit: Getty

He was made the highest-paid player on the continent in the deal

He was made the highest-paid player on the continent in the dealCredit: Getty
Mirotic grew up in Montenegro and as a teenager was one of Europe’s brightest basketball talents.

He signed a youth contract with Real Madrid at the age of 14, just one year after he was introduced to the sport by his grandfather.

Standing at 6-foot-10 and weighing 250 pounds, Mirotic proved to be a weapon at both ends of the court.

In 2010, he won the EuroLeague Rising Star award, before signing a mega five-year contract extension with Madrid the following year.

Mirotic entered the NBA Draft in 2011 and was selected by the Houston Rockets as the 23rd overall pick.

He was traded twice, eventually joining up with the Chicago Bulls.

Mirotic impressed from the jump and was a member of the All-Rookie First Team during his debut season.

The power forward spent four seasons in Chicago, before moving on to the New Orleans Pelicans and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Mirotic played in over 300 career games in the NBA, averaging 12.3 points and shooting .423 from the field.

And those numbers prompted Barcelona to come calling in 2019, offering Mirotic a career-defining offer.

Per Spotrac, he had raked in over $40million over his seven seasons in the NBA.

But Barcelona tempted Mirotic the chance to come back to Europe – by making him the highest-paid basketball player on the continent.

He signed a three-year, $28.3million deal with the Spanish team – and paid them back by winning another MVP award a year later.

Throughout his time with Barca, Mirotic won two Liga Endesa titles and two Copa del Rey trophies.

He bagged a third MVP in 2022 but parted ways with Barcelona under a cloud earlier this year.

Mirotic has now found a new team, joining Italian challengers Olimpia Milano on a two-year deal.

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