Darko Milicic's family has been closely tied to his basketball career for longer than just the recent period in which he has contemplated leaving the Boston Celtics to be with his ill mother in Serbia.
His desire to help his loved ones is the reason why he left them in the first place at the age of 13.
Milicic grew up the son of two parents with little knowledge of basketball. Sports and athletics were not a priority for the family in Yugoslavia. They were trying to make it each day in a war-torn country.
"My parents did everything they could to survive," Milcic recently told CSNNE.com. "They did a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff. My mom was working a lot of jobs in her life, my father too. My father also worked on the side to make money."
It was a coach who ran a youth team nearby Milcic's home that spotted the towering child. "He saw me tall and said I should come," Milicic recounted. He began playing organized basketball when he was around 10 years old. Three years later, he was offered a contract to play for another team two hours away from his family.
The 13-year-old would have to live on his own and learn how to support himself. Milcic made the move.
"I lived by myself," Milicic, now 27, said. "I was making money then playing basketball, I signed a contract when I was 13. It's easy to support yourself because we go through a lot of stuff as young guys back home, so we are by 13 already grown. You can go by yourself. It wasn't hard for me. During the bombings we went through a lot of stuff. For me, it was good to play basketball. I didn't think about being on my own because it was just two hours from home."
Life in the NBA has taken Milcic far from home over the past nine seasons. Last weekend, he returned to Europe for his mother. When asked on Tuesday if his time with the Celtics was over, head coach Doc Rivers replied, "Most likely, yes."
As a teenager, Milicic made the decision to pursue a basketball career that would improve his family's situation. Now in his tenth NBA season, he could walk away from it all to be with the ones he left 14 years ago to help.