ESPN Films and NBA Entertainment (NBAE) have teamed up to take an in-depth look at the breakup of the once-powerful Yugoslavian Men’s Senior National Basketball Team as part of the network’s acclaimed 30 for 30 series with Once Brothers.
The 90-minute documentary, which recounts the devastating effects of the Yugoslavian civil war of the early 1990’s, spotlighting the shattered friendship between former NBA greats Vlade Divac and the late Drazen Petrovic, airs Tuesday, October 12, at 8 p.m. ET.
“To build a friendship takes years, but to destroy it, takes one second,” says Divac, who tells the story of how he and Petrovic joined forces to lead their country to the top of European basketball competition, went on to NBA stardom and then suffered the fallout of events beyond their control – resulting in the dissolution of what seemed to be an unbreakable bond.
“I always thought that the day would come when Drazen and I would sit down and talk, but that day never came,” reflects Divac about Petrovic, who was killed in a car accident in 1993 at age 28.
For the first time, Divac delves into what happened to him and his teammates. He and Petrovic led Yugoslavia to lofty heights, including victories over the USA and USSR to win the 1990 FIBA Men’s Basketball World Championship, and pioneered a wave of international talent into the NBA. Their friendship grew even stronger during their early NBA years, when they leaned on each other as compatriots in a strange land. But despite being “brothers,” their friendship was no match for the divisions created by Yugoslavia’s civil war, as Divac’s Serbia and Petrovic’s Croatia revisited their centuries-old conflict. While the war was raging, Divac and Petrovic would face each other often in the NBA, and no words would pass between them.
Once Brothers features interviews with Yugoslavian teammates Toni Kukoc and Dino Radja, as well as NBA legends Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Jerry West, Danny Ainge and Kenny Anderson, who discuss Divac and Petrovic’s impact on the global growth of basketball. NBAE cameras follow Divac on his intensely emotional journey as he struggles to come to terms with the break-up of his former team and the death of Petrovic.
Once Brothers also includes:
- Johnson’s recollections of Divac’s early years with the Los Angeles Lakers;
- Drexler’s view of Petrovic’s frustrations with his lack of playing time in Portland;
- Ainge’s comparison of Petrovic to Hall of Famer “Pistol” Pete Maravich;
- Exclusive interview with Biserka Petrovic, Drazen’s mother, in which she talks about how she told a young Divac to look out for the older Petrovic in the United States, and how important he was during her son’s early NBA years.
Divac on initial impressions of Petrovic:
“All across Europe, there was a player who everyone was talking about. I heard he once scored 112 points in one game. He was from Sibenik, Croatia, and he was all of Yugoslavia’s favorite son.. They called him ‘The Mozart of Basketball’ and his name was Drazen Petrovic.”
Kukoc on playing with Petrovic:
“You would get caught up in, ‘Would I rather really want to watch this game?’ or ‘Would I want to play in this game?’ because if you are playing, you may miss something.”
Anderson on Petrovic against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls:
“He had 40 against Jordan. He was going at Jordan like, ‘It ain’t nothing. Give me the ball. I’m hot. I’m taking it.’ That’s when I knew. He’d arrived.”
Radja, a Croatian, on the negative reaction to Vlade:
“It was difficult for me not to be able to stand up and say, ‘People, you’re wrong. He’s a good guy. He is not a bad guy’ but you just couldn’t.”
Bill Fitch, Former New Jersey Nets Head Coach, about Divac and Petrovic’s shattered friendship:
“Drazen was set in his way. I’d seen a lot of peace makers try to make peace between Vlade and Drazen while I was around and it never happened. Vlade tried, I know, but it just wasn’t going to happen.”