Drazen Petrovic: 20 years on

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It was 20 years ago today that basketball lost one of the true greats. Drazen Petrovic is a name that basketball fans throughout the world are (and should be) familar with.

After a spell with the Portland Trailblazers, the Croatian went to New Jersey to play for the Nets where he gained instant credibility and was widely regarded as one of the best shooting guards of his generation.

During his career, he was a two-time Mr. Europa winner, a world championship MVP (1986), named as one of FIBA’s 50 greatest players and one of the 50 greatest Euroleague contributors.

Petrovic was posthumously elected into the NBA Hall of Fame and his number 3 jersey was retired by the Nets (who now play in Brooklyn). His number 10 jersey was also retired by his European club Cibona Zagreb.

On June 7 1993, a tragic car accident took the life of Petrovic; he was just 28-years-old. Today, the nation of Croatia has remembered the legendary figure. The Croatian national football team have publicly paid tribute by laying flowers at his gravesite before their World Cup qualifier against Scotland.

What the media say.

John Hobbs (TalkBasket) “I remember watching Drazen play for the Nets on the TV in what I can remember was my first basketball experience. With the Michael Jordan era beginning to take full swing, I was hooked on basketball and Petrovic paved the way for one of my favourite international players ever in Toni Kukoc.

Petrovic’s flawless shooting release and fearlessness to get to the hoop was a joy to watch and no doubt his legacy will live on in the NBA always. Anyone who is an NBA fan knows Drazen Petrovic.”

Rob Dugdale (BBC) “I was there for that final game because England had been playing in the tournament. Croatia were in the same hotel as us and we kept bumping into him and his best mate Stojko Vrankovic, the 7’1” centre.

I’d interviewed Drazen him a couple of days previously. There were rumours he was pissed with the NBA as he was passed over as an all-star for no good reason) and was going to come back to Europe to play in Greece.

He was a prodigious shooter, no question – never saw a look he didn’t fancy. But he could hurt you a number of ways. I once saw him score 25 points which included 18/19 from the foul line because he kept driving and faking to get the opposing big men in foul trouble.

One thing I do remember from that last game (the final, a 94-90 loss to Slovenia) was his last shot. He received the ball off the curl at the top of the key (a favourite move of his) but missed the shot. That was the first thing I thought when I got back to Britain and heard he’d been killed.”

Matej Bargent (Union Olimpija PR) “I never watched him live but I remember watching Drazen’s tape off my first basketball coach. I was amazed by him.”