MINNEAPOLIS – Darko Milicic is auctioning the 2004 NBA championship ring he won with the Detroit Pistons to raise money and awareness for children dealing with the terminal illness Batten's disease.
Batten's is a neurological disorder that affects mostly children and gradually causes blindness, seizures and death. Milicic is also auctioning off the championship belt that was given to him by Rasheed Wallace.
"Whatever money (I raise) is going to be good because those treatments cost a lot and those people can't afford it," Milicic said before his Minnesota Timberwolves played the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.
Milicic became familiar with the condition after he and his wife read a newspaper story in his native Serbia about a family confronted with it. Out of the blue, he paid for four children to travel to China for stem cell treatments.
The treatments cost $35,000 each. So Milicic is trying to raise more money until doctors come up with more affordable treatments in the United States and elsewhere.
He got the idea from Ron Artest, who auctioned off his Lakers championship ring to raise money for mental health programs in schools.
"He did a great job," said Milicic, a father of two young children. "I'm going to try to do the best I can."
Those interested can purchase raffle tickets for $2 to be entered in the drawing. Milicic said it will stay open for about two months before a winner is chosen. He is also giving away an all-expenses paid trip to an NBA finals game in June.
He will host 22 members of the Minnesota chapter of the Batten Disease Support and Research Association in a suite for the season finale on April 13 against Houston. Any money raised during that game will go to families in Minnesota affected by the disease.
Milicic won the ring as a little-used rookie on the veteran Pistons and he struggled to assimilate to life in the United States as an 18-year-old, so the sentimental value of the ring isn't great.
When asked if it was a tough decision, Milicic said "no, especially saving the kid's life. A ring is a ring. A ring is going to be around. If that ring can save as many lives as we hope it's going to save, that's unbelievable."
But the belt?
"The belt was different because the belt was a gift from Rasheed Wallace," Milicic said. "I think he's going to understand. It's going to a great cause."