Petrovic playing for the Nets.
|No. 44, 3|
| Date of birth: October 22, 1964 |
|Date of death: June 7, 1993 (aged 28)|
|Height: 6 ft 5 in||Weight: 200 lbs|
| NBA Draft: 1986; 3rd round: / 60th pick |
Selected by the Portland Trail Blazers
|Pro career: 1979-1993|
|Career highlights awards|
|4x Euroscar Award|
2x Mr. Euopea Award
All-NBA Third team (1993)
|Dražen Petrović at NBA.com|
|Basketball Hall of Fame (as player)|
Dražen Petrović (born October 22, 1964, in Šibenik, SR Croatia, SFR Yugoslavia–died June 7, 1993, in Denkendorf, Bavaria, Germany) was a Croatian professional basketball player. A shooting guard, he initially achieved success playing professional basketball in Europe in the 1980s before joining the American NBA in 1989. Petrović's life and career were tragically cut short in mid-career in an auto accident in Germany at just twenty-eight.
Petrović was the advent of one of the most far-reaching changes in the makeup of the NBA, -- the international influence. During the 1980s there was the arrival of significant numbers of talented European players, a migration greatly accelerated by the fall of communist governments in Eastern Europe. But no arrival was more eagerly anticipated than that of Drazen Petrovic.
The Croatian native led the national team of the former Yugoslavia to gold medals at European and World Championships and a silver medal at the 1988 Olympics before developing into one of the NBA's top shooting guards with the Portland Trail Blazers and New Jersey Nets. However, tragedy cut his career short when he died in an automobile accident in Germany at age 28.
His success elicited comments like this from NBA Commissioner David Stern: "Drazen Petrovic was an extraordinary young man, and a true pioneer in the global sports of basketball. I know that a lasting part of his athletic legacy will be that he paved the way for other |international players to compete successfully in the NBA. His contributions to the sport of basketball were enormous. We are all proud of the fact we knew him."
In four short seasons in the NBA, he was a blazing comet of tireless enthusiasm who made an everlasting mark. Petrovic had shooting skills to match his energy. In his two full seasons with New Jersey he averaged 21.4 points. In his best -- and final -- season, 1992–93, he led the Nets with 22.3 points per game.
"Even if you were a fan of another team, you couldn't root against him," Nets teammate Sam Bowie told the Newark Star-Ledger. "You had to be impressed by him."
Born in Šibenik, a city in Croatia , in the former Yugoslavia, Dražen Petrović was the second child of Jovan and Biserka Petrović. The couple's first child, Aleksandar, would be the first one to tread the basketball path, providing a lead for young Petrović to follow.
He was the close cousin of great Serbian baketball player Dejan Bodiroga. Dejan's grandmother (on his father's side) and Drazen's grandfather (also on his father's side) are brother and sister, making Bodiroga and Petrović second cousins.
At the age of thirteen, Petrović started playing in the youth selections of the local BC Šibenka; at the age of fifteen he had already made the first team, just as Šibenka earned a place in the national first division. With young Petrović as the star of the team, Šibenka reached the final of the Radivoj Korać Cup twice (1982 and 1983), losing to CSP Limoges both times. In 1983 the 18 year-old Petrović hit two free throws for Šibenka's victory over BC Bosna Sarajevo in the final playoff game of the Yugoslavian club championship, but the title was taken away from Šibenka the next day by the national basketball federation with irregularities in refereeing cited as the reason, and awarded to Bosna after Šibenka failed to show up for the repeat match.
Rise to European Popularity
After spending a year serving the mandatory time in the military, Petrović followed his brother's footsteps and moved to BC Cibona Zagreb to form, at that time, the best backcourt duo in Europe. The very first year in Cibona he won both the Yugoslav championship and the national cup. To top it all off, the 87-78 victory over Real Madrid, to which Petrović contributed with 36 points, brought him and Cibona their first European Cup title. The second came the following year, as Petrović scored 22 points and Cibona defeated BC Žalgiris Kaunas, which starred the legendary Arvydas Sabonis. The same year brought another national cup title for Cibona, seeing Petrović score 46 against the old rival Bosna. In 1987 Petrović earned his third European trophy: a European Cup Winners Cup title against Scavolini Pesaro, whose net he filled with 28 points.
Petrović's scoring average during the four years with Cibona stood at 37.7 points in the Yugoslavian first division and 33.8 in European competitions, with personal one-time bests of 112 and 62 points, respectively. His scoring sheet was often known to show 40, 50, even 60 in a single game; in an 1986 European League game against Limoges, Petrović scored ten 3-pointers, including seven in a row during a first half stretch, for a final tally of 51 points and 10 assists; the same season he scored 45 points and dished out 25 assists against the reigning Italian champions Simac. Self-admittedly, Petrović needed new challenges, which Cibona and the Yugoslavian league could not offer. Across the Atlantic, the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA had already used their third round pick on young Petrović in 1986. But Yugoslavia's travel restrictions and, later, complicated contractual ties kept him away from North America until the decade's end. For the next several years, he dominated the European scene while playing for Real Madrid in Spain. He signed with Real Madrid for a hefty sum of around US $4 million.
The 1988-1989 season saw Petrović wear the colors of the Spanish royal club, Real Madrid. Although the national championship barely escaped them, as they lost to Barcelona in the fifth and decisive game of the final series, Petrović helped Real to the national cup title over their Catalonian rivals. Petrović also lead the club to victory in the European Cup Winners Cup final against Snaidero Caserta by tying his previous best scoring performance in European competitions (62 points). His first season in the ACB was also his last, but he still holds ACB single performance bests in a final series game in points made (42) and three-pointers made (8).
Motivated by the challenge and pressured by the Portland Trail Blazers, who had drafted him 60th overall back in 1986, Petrović finally stood firm in the decision to try and establish himself in the NBA. He left Spain rather abruptly at the end of the season; the Blazers assisted in buying out his contract with Real (for as much as US$ 1.5 million) and Petrović joined the Blazers for the 1989-1990 season.
Portland Trail Blazers
Ultimately he was offered an NBA contract by Portland and earned the right to play after a legal battle resulting in him buying his way out of his Spanish deal (reportedly for as much as $1.5 million), setting off a storm of outrage in Madrid.
Petrovic's U.S. debut in the 1989–90, season proved unspectacular. His defensive skills were still raw by NBA standards, and the Trail Blazers, already solid at the two position with Clyde Drexler, found only limited use for a shooting guard who was weak on defense. In 77 games in his rookie season he averaged only 7.6 points in 12.6 minutes per game.
Petrovic's outside shooting won him a chance to start the next season, and he jumped to 20.6 points per game. He began to gain league-wide recognition as one of the NBA's best outside shooters, particularly from three-point range. He hit on 123 of 277 three-point attempts that season, ranking second in the NBA with a .444 percentage. Petrovic also led the Nets in field-goal shooting (.508) and free-throw shooting (.808)
New Jersey Nets
In the first half of the 1990–91 the Trail Blazers kept Petrovic on the bench in 20 of 38 games before trading him to New Jersey in a three-team deal that brought Walter Davis to Portland. The Nets also used him sparingly at first, but they gave him enough playing time to improve his point production to 12.6 per game. Playing an average of 20.5 minutes in 43 games, he had one of the league's best points-per-minute ratios.
In the 1992 offseason Petrovic returned to his homeland to lead the newly independent Croatia to a silver medal at the 1992 Olympics and providing the only brief scare to the United States Dream Team during the entire tournament. In the gold medal round, Croatia took a 25-23 lead against the Dream Team before falling 117-85, which featured such NBA rivals as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, against whom Petrovic (playing point guard rather than shooting guard) scored 19 points.
His NBA numbers got even better in 1992–93. Besides leading the Nets in scoring (22.3 ppg), he set the team pace with a .518 field-goal percentage and a .449 three-point field-goal percentage. The media voted him to the All-NBA Third Team at season's end. Fans loved his enthusiasm and energy, and his coaches admired the fact that he devoted offseason time to improving his game, especially his defense. "You couldn't have wanted a better teammate," New Jersey Head Coach Chuck Daly told the Newark Star-Ledger. "He was very talented, he played very hard and was able to lead by his example. He was indefatigable."
After the Nets fell in the first round of the 1993 Playoffs, Petrovic, unhappy with New Jersey management, which was slow to renegotiate his contract, told reporters he would probably accept a two-year offer to play pro ball in Greece. He then left for Europe to rejoin the Croatian national team in European Cup competition.
In the summer of 1993, after his best NBA season and the Nets' first-round elimination by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Petrović traveled to Poland, where the Croatian national team was playing a qualification tournament for the 1993 Eurobasket. He was contemplating departure from the Nets, disappointed with tension between himself and, to his belief, envious teammates, as well as the fact that the Nets had not yet extended his contract. He told American reporters that the lack of recognition in the league had him also considering leaving the NBA completely and playing club basketball in Greece; there were at least two Greek clubs ready to offer Petrović three-year contracts worth US$ 7.5 million. It was rumored that Petrović verbally agreed on terms with Panathinaikos BC; these rumors gave rise to the story of PAO's owner, Pavlos Giannakopoulos, allegedly offering the Nets' star a signed contract with blank salary terms, which became a part of Petrović's legend.
Petrovic detoured to Germany to visit his girlfriend. On June 7 he was en route to Munich when the car in which he was a passenger slammed into a tractor-trailer in Denkendorf, Germany. He died instantly. He was only 28 years old.
The loss particularly stunned European fans. "It's hard for you to imagine here in America, because you have so many great players," his brother told the New York Daily News. "But we are a country of four million. Without him, basketball takes three steps back."
Late in 1993 the Nets retired Petrovic's uniform No. 3 in tribute. Another lasting legacy Petrovic leaves is the Drazen Petrovic Trophy which is awarded to the MVP of the McDonald's Championship, the series between the NBA Champion and the European Champion.
Petrović's tomb at Mirogoj had instantly become a sanctuary for his compatriots. The Cibona stadium was renamed the Dražen Petrović Basketball Hall on October 4, 1993, and the city of Zagreb dedicated a square in his name. The Nets retired his number 3 jersey on November 11, 1993. Since 1994, the MVP award at the McDonald's Championship has borne the name Drazen Petrovic Trophy. On April 29, 1995, a statue commemorating Petrović's significance to the world of sports was erected in front of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, thus making him only the second athlete to receive this honor. On July 9, 2001, having defeated Patrick Rafter to win the men's singles title at Wimbledon, Croatian tennis player Goran Ivanišević dedicated the win to his late friend Petrović; Ivanišević wore Petrović's Nets jersey amidst the 100,000 strong crowd celebrating his victory in Split. Petrović was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2006, the 13th anniversary of Petrović's death was marked with the opening of the Dražen Petrović Memorial Center in Zagreb, a grand temple dedicated to Petrović's person and achievements, with ten themed galleries of multimedia content outlining his entire career. In 2007, he was enshrined in the FIBA Hall of Fame.
The famous arcade basketball game NBA Jam is said to be haunted by Dražen Petrović.
|Full Name: Dražen Petrović|
|Born: October 22, 1964, in Sibenik, Croatia|
|Died: June 6, 1993, in Denkendorf, Bavaria, Germany|
|College: University of Zagreb (Yugoslavia)|
|Drafted by: Portland Trail Blazers, 1986 (third round)|
|Transactions: Traded to New Jersey Nets 1/23/91|
|Weight: 200 lbs.|
|Honors: Elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2002); Elected to the FIBA Hall of Fame (2007); All-NBA Third Team (1993)|