Basketball player and Olympian

Born: March 29, 1980;

Died: January 23, 2020.

ROBERT Archibald, who has died suddenly, aged 39, was quite simply Scotland’s most-successful basketball player – the only one ever to play at the very highest level, in the NBA in North America, and also at the Olympic Games.

Basketball was in his blood. His father, Bobby, was a legend in the game in Scotland, as a player with Paisley then with the all-conquering Murray International Metals (MIM) team. He captained Scotland and was a Great Britain regular.

Robert Archibald was born in Paisley but learned to play basketball at Queen Anne High School in Dunfermline, and with the Dunfermline Reign outfit, winning Scotland age-group caps.

When his father relocated his family to the USA, Robert completed his education at Lafayette High School, in Wildwood, Missouri, where he played for the Lafayette Lancers High School basketball team. His sheer size -- he stood six foot eleven inches tall -- and his undoubted talent won him a basketball scholarship to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, in 1998.

With “The Fighting Illini,” he was part of three Big Ten Conference-winning squads, helping them reach the N.C.A.A. “Sweet 16” (the 16 best teams in the USA) in 2002, his senior year at university. He graduated with a BA degree in economics.

Although it is a “non-contact” sport, in the “red zone’ under the baskets the game is very physical and, like his father before him, Archibald relished the physical side, and was the most penalised player in the Big Ten in his senior year. But former team-mates, in paying tribute to him, have told how their on-court “minder” was also a leader off the court, a genuinely “nice guy” and one of the prime movers when it came to the team bonding and having fun together.

His work ethic at college also impressed. He played a mere 12 games in his freshman and sophomore years, but, in his junior and senior years – years three and four – he had worked his way up to a starting position and was a key player in the squad with his rebounding and ability to create space for others.

Later in 2002, he was drafted 32nd (the third pick in the second round of the draft) by the Memphis Grizzlies. He had a somewhat mixed career in the NBA. He featured in a mere 12 games in his debut season, at the end of which the Grizzlies traded him to the Phoenix Suns.

In December 2003, he was traded again, this time to Orlando Magic, but, one week later, he was on the move once again, to the Toronto Raptors, for whom he played 30 of his 44 games in “The Big Show.”

In 2004 he moved to Europe, initially with Valencia, and, over the next eight years he proved himself as one of the top players on the continent.

In 2006 he helped the Spanish side, Joventut Badalona, win the FIBA EuroCup, then, in 2008, while playing in Ukraine with Azovmash Mariupol, he helped that club to the Ukrainian Superleague title and was named MVP (Most Valuable Player) in the Superleague finals series, before helping the club also win the Ukrainian Cup.

He then returned to Spain, where he played for Malaga and Zaragoza, and at the 2012 London Olympics, he was a key player for Team GB.

He then decided that playing in the Olympics was a good point at which to retire.

Archibald returned to the USA, to Illinois, where he opened his own insurance agency, part of the giant State Farm Insurance network, in Elmhurst, in 2015.

He is survived by parents Bobby and Heather and a sister; his estranged wife, the former Molly Eckols, whom he met when both were students at the University of Illinois, and his eight-year-old son, Robbie.

Following the breakdown of his marriage, Archibald found new love with Missy Sandberg, becoming a second father to her children, Ethan and twins Ryan and Avery.

His achievements on-court are unparalleled in Scottish basketball. The game in this country has lost a true giant, far too soon.

“We were so proud of him,” said his father, Bobby. “He pushed personal envelopes for his sport by making it to the NBA with his dedication to his craft.”

Kevin Pringle, Chief Executive of basketballscotland said: “He was a wonderful man and a great friend, as well as being a trailblazer and an inspiration to others.

"Robert loved the sport and demonstrated what can be achieved through hard work and the right attitude. Throughout his extraordinary career he always played with pride and determination, and was always a credit to his country, whether representing Scotland or GB at home or abroad.

"The basketball community has lost a great role model and a true friend”.