Tiago Splitter was one of the best centers in basketball for the better part of two decades. He took many steps to reach the highest levels, leaving his native Brazil at the age of 15 to join Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, which had the patience to work with him and send him out for loan periods to help Splitter develop physically. He went on to become a dominant center in the EuroLeague and played in the NBA for seven years, but Splitter also enjoyed a brief experience in the 7DAYS EuroCup.
What came before
An elite prospect from a very young age, Splitter signed a seven-year deal with Baskonia when he was just 15 years of age. He played elsewhere for three years, however, first for Araba Gorabo and then for Bilbao Basket, which he helped advance to the Spanish second division. Splitter averaged 13.3 points and 7.1 rebounds in 28 Spanish second division games and then returned to Baskonia at the end of the 2002-03 season. He helped Baskonia reach four consecutive EuroLeague Final Fours from 2005 to 2008, including an appearance in the championship game in 2005.
Splitter was named to the All-EuroLeague team during three straight seasons starting in 2007-08, including on the first team in the first of those campaigns. He also helped Baskonia win Spanish League titles in 2008 and 2010 and lifted the Spanish Copa del Rey in 2004, 2006 and 2009. Over 137 EuroLeague career games with Baskonia, Splitter amassed 1,436 points (10.5 ppg.) on 59.7% two-point shooting and 659 rebounds (4.8 rpg.). Splitter joined San Antonio of the NBA before the start of the 2010-11 season. Though he never played again in the EuroLeague, Splitter's EuroCup debut was coming sooner than expected.
A labor dispute between NBA club owners and players led to a lockout on July 1, 2011, which would last until December 8, 2011. During the lockout, teams could not trade, sign or contact players. Likewise, players could not access NBA team facilities, trainers or staff. The legal status of the lockout opened the doors for players under contract in the NBA to play elsewhere during the lockout. Splitter was one of them as he returned to Spain and joined Valencia Basket. Splitter made his EuroCup debut in Round 2 of the season at home against Telenet Ostend on November 22, 2011. He finished the game with 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting and a performance index rating of 16 in 20:35 on the floor to help Valencia to a 75-62 win. Splitter played two more EuroCup games with Valencia, both against Lukoil Academic Sofia. He ended up averaging 14.0 points and 7.7 rebounds in those three games.
In Splitter's final game with Valencia, against Lukoil at La Fonteta, he received a warm ovation in a pre-game ceremony, which showed the great connection between Splitter and Valencia fans. "I had a lot of fun," Splitter said after his final game with Valencia. "I would like to thank everyone in Valencia and the club, players and coaches for welcoming me so nicely. I tried to give back to them on the court. A lot of people asked me for Valencia jerseys! My father, my brother, friends... and I promised to bring them back!"
What came after
Splitter returned to the NBA and re-joined San Antonio, where he played there until 2015. He helped San Antonio win the NBA title in 2014. He had already reached the NBA Finals with San Antonio in 2013. Splitter went on to play one season with Atlanta and another with Philadelphia before retiring in 2017 at the age of 32 due to a hip injury. In 355 NBA regular-season games, Splitter averaged 7.9 points and 5.0 rebounds. He also took part in 65 NBA playoffs games. Splitter led Brazil to gold medals at the 2003 FIBA South American Championship, the 2003 PanAmerican Games, and the 2005 and 2009 FIBA AmeriCup as well as a silver medal at the 2011 AmeriCup. He is currently serving as a player development coach for another NBA franchise, Brooklyn.