It has been a long 30 years since the departure of Dražen Petrović, a great man and a basketball legend. His memory, however, remains in the hearts and minds of those that knew him and in the Croatian Sports Museum. On this occasion, we present select photographs that remind us of his genius as a player and his humanity.
Born in Šibenik, October 22nd 1964, Dražen made his debut playing for Šibenka’s seniors, a team with which he won the Yugoslav Championship in 1983 – a title that was subsequently stripped from them at the so-called green table. In 1984 he joined Zagreb’s Cibona, where he claimed the title of European champion twice. At 23, he moved to Madrid’s Real club, a precedent in Yugoslav sports at the time as previously players were only allowed to join foreign clubs at 28. Dražen would go on to join the world’s strongest basketball league, the NBA, as one of the first European players to join it, forging a path for future players of the Old World through his hard work. It was playing for the New York Nets that he proved himself one of the NBA’s best shooters and Dražen’s number 3 jersey has been permanently retired since his death.
Dražen was the team captain of the legendary Croatian national team that won the silver medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the first event where NBA players were allowed to participate. Prior to those Olympics, alongside the Yugoslav national team, he won silver at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and bronze at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, as well as winning titles in both European and World championships.
On this date thirty years ago, at the age of 28, Dražen Petrović’s life was tragically cut short in an automobile accident as he was returning from a qualifying match he had played for the Croatian national team.
His greatness was recognized world-wide – a statue by the Croatian sculptor Vasko Lipovac was placed in the park of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne in 1995 and his name was added to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. In front of the sports hall bearing his name in Zagreb is a statue of Dražen Petrović, made by the sculptor Kuzma Kovačić, while Dražen’s birth city of Šibenik honored “their kid” with a sculpture by sculptor Kažimir Hraste.