20060609

Drazen Petrovic

Yesterday was the day. 13 years since Drazen Petrovic left us in a german highway. Who was Drazen Petrovic? Well... some say Dejan Bodiroga is the best european player to never ever play in the NBA... And Drazen is considered by some (quite a lot) as the best european player ever.



He was born in Sibenik, Croatia, 22 October 1964. Younger brother of Aleksander `Asa' Petrovic, another great croatian basketball player (and coach), he started his playing career very early, without listening to his parents who didn't want another player in the family. By 15 he made his debut, and gathered a lot of attention for his style. In a few years, he was already the team's star. Then, military service and team change: he moved from Sibenik to Zagreb's Cibona, where his brother was playing. Undisputed team's star, in the final game of the European cup he nailed 39 points against spanish Real Madrid, winning also the title. Two more were to come the following years. His individual statistics these years were legendary: against french team Limoges, he scored 10 three-pointers, 7 in a row. He finished this game with 51 points, 10 assists. Europe was already too small for him, but Real Madrid splashed the cash and he went for a year, before trying for the NBA.



One year, and he lost the League against eternal rivals Barcelona, but they won the European cup against Snaidero Caserta in a legendary game. Snaidero had the other non-NBA killer: Oscar Schmidt. Petrovic nailed 62 points in this game, Oscar was close... with 44, but lost. And after this exhibition, nothing left to do: he went to the Trail Blazers.

Where he had no minutes, no playing support, nothing. A crime against baketblall. Just 7 points per game... luckily he was traded in the mid-season to the Nets. Now, first Net year 12 ppg... and in his second year 22 points per game, 45% in 3-points, 52% in field points. Team's MVP with the best overall % for a guard in the league... and he was placed in the 3rd All-Star NBA team, and he was elected for the 3-point shootout. He was angry, and said he would not play in the shootout, as he had earned an All-Star game by numbers and game, what else was needed to get in the first team? Sadly, no-one would ever know.



It was EuroBasket pre-games in Poland. He departed to Croatia and decided to go by car, with a friend. One truck crossed the median and one of the best players ever was gone. News broke the next day, and the basketball world was struck.

In 2002 he was inducted in the Hall of Fame of the NBA, together with 'Magic' Johnson. Finally, a phrase I found in ACB.com (Spanish basketball league homepage):

'Don't be sad by Drazen's death: he was a genius, and geniuses live forever'
Diego Armando Maradona, to Biserka, Petrovic's mother


Written by Ruben Berenguel