Since the NBA All-Star weekend just finished up I feel like it’s the perfect time to talk about my favorite NBA player of all time and his name is Drazen Petrovic. As a kid I would always be in my back yard playing with my little tikes basketball hoop and while I played, my dad would constantly talk about Drazen Petrovic and how amazing he was. Back then, Petrovic was just a name to me and it took a while before I learned why my dad spoke so highly of him and why he was such a legendary figure back in my dad’s home country of Croatia.
There is a documentary called Once Brothers by ESPN which talks about Drazen Petrovic and his friendship with one of his former teammates Vade Divac. An interesting part for me was the portion which spoke about Drazen’s upbringing and his life before he reached the NBA. As a child, he also loved the game of basketball and he always wanted to get better. That’s why every morning he went to the local gym to practice for hours on top of hours. This dedication led him become the best player in Europe one day. I believe the most amazing feat that he accomplished was scoring 112 points in a single game at the age of 21. Now that’s special.
After absolutely tearing up Europe for a couple of years, he decided that he needed more of a challenge and something to push him to become a better basketball player. So, he decided to take his talents to the NBA. He joined the Portland Trailblazers during the 1989-1990 season. During Petrovic’s first two seasons in the NBA, he struggled to receive even a couple minutes of playing time. That all changed by 1991 when he was traded to the New Jersey Nets. Not soon after, he was traded to the Nets and showed the NBA an amazing player he really was after they increased his minutes during games.
In the two years following his trade to New Jersey, he evolved into one of the NBA’s best shooting guards and deadliest 3 point shooters. To the Croatian people, Drazen provided an escape from the war of independence taking place. The Croatian people loved him, and he loved them. Even amidst the war, Drazen would take constant trips to Croatia during the NBA season.
Here comes my absolute least favorite part of Petrovic’s story. In 1993, Petrovic’s rising star sadly fell. After a game for the Croatian national team in Poland, he decided to drive back to Croatia with his girlfriend at the time. While in Germany, he got into an accident and was tragically killed at the young age of 28.
But alas! On a more positive note, Drazen lives on today as a legend and a role model to many. In 2002, he was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame. He is also seen as a pioneer by paving the way for several Europeans to join the NBA such as Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker. I never got to see Drazen play but I always find myself watching reruns of his games and even yelling “PETRO FOR 3… GOT IT!” whenever I make a 3 pointer. Drazen Petrovic loved the game of basketball and his presence and influence is still felt to this day by others, including myself, who share the same love for the game.