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Dražen Petrović, a prematurely extinguished NBA star

Dražen Petrović was born in Šibenik on October 22, 1964 and was one of the greatest Croatian and world basketball players. He was even included among the 50 people who contributed the most to the Euroleague.

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At approximately 17:20, on Monday, June 7, 1993, dreams and hopes of an entire nation came to an abrupt end when the truck driver lost control and broke through the median fence on the motorway near the German town of Denkendorf right in front of an arriving Volkswagen Golf. The collision was simply inevitable and unavoidable. No one could predict that, at that exact second, the New Jersey Net’s shooting guard and rising NBA star, Dražen Petrović, would take his last breath.

Dražen Petrović: From shooting hoops at the school’s court in a small town on the Adriatic coast to NBA Hall of Fame

The world calls him Mozart because what Wolfgang was doing with notes and instruments, Dražen Petrović was doing with a basketball on a court. His game was like perfectly tuned violin playing Violin Concerto No. 5 in A, 2nd Movement.

Drazen Petrivic on the Top of his Career
Drazen Petrivic on the Top of his Career

After he literally conquered European basketball and won basically everything that could’ve been won, Dražen started looking for a way to step up his game. There was only one place where that dream could come true and that was the US National Basketball Association.

Benched in Blazers, starring in Nets

His first NBA team was Portland Trail Blazers where he was sitting on the bench for the most of the time. The breaking point came when the Blazers decided to sell Dražen to New Jersey Nets.

The legend was born already during the first few minutes in Net’s jersey. Now legendary number 3 that Nets retired after his tragic death, demonstrated an unlikely skill of a European underdog and shooting guard. It was like he was determined to show to Blazers what they had lost.

However, back in those days, the NBA wasn’t yet opened to outsiders. In retrospect, we could say that Dražen Petrović, with his unearthly game, paved the way for all the future non-American NBA players.

His skill practically opened the valve and allowed a soon-to-come influx of European players. But before NBA changed the policy and attitude, there was a certain level of animosity among the American players towards this European hotshot who’s breaking one record after another “in their game.”

Unfortunately, that same animosity led to his premature death (only four and a half month before his 29th birthday). He decided to give himself some time to think

Dražen Petrović Monument in Zagreb
Dražen Petrović Monument in Zagreb

about everything after Nets lost to Cavaliers and instead of joining the rest of the Croatian national basketball team on a flight to Berlin, he decided to take a ride with his girlfriend, Hungarian model and basketball player, Klara Szalantzy. If Nets hadn’t been stalling with signing a new contract, Dražen would most likely be on that plane instead on the passenger’s seat in a Volkswagen Golf on a collision course with an uncontrolled truck.

Today, Croatia and the basketball world remember him as one true legend and unmatched basketball virtuoso. In 2013, eleven years after his jersey was revealed in NBA’s Hall of Fame, players of the 2013 FIBA Eurobasket voted Dražen Petrović the best European Basketball player in history. That says more than enough about his superior skills on the court.

Drazen Petrivic_s Hall
Drazen Petrivic_s Hall

To honor his legacy, the Cibona’s stadium in the Croatian capital Zagreb was renamed and it’s now known as Dražen Petrović Basketball Hall. Zagreb and several other Croatian towns named their squares after him. Even today, basketball fans from all over the world pilgrim to his tomb at Zagreb’s Mirogoj graveyard. That’s how great Dražen Petrović really was and it didn’t take long for the world to recognize that. Just a few great hoops and almost surreal control of the basketball.

Your CTC Team, I.K.

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