Petrovi? with the New Jersey Nets in 1992
October 22, 1964|
?ibenik, SR Croatia, SFR Yugoslavia
|Died||June 7, 1993
|Listed height||6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)|
|Listed weight||200 lb (91 kg)|
|NBA draft||1986 / Round: 3 / Pick: 60th overall|
|Selected by the Portland Trail Blazers|
|Number||4, 10, 5, 44, 3|
|1989-1991||Portland Trail Blazers|
|1991-1993||New Jersey Nets|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NBA statistics|
|Points||4,461 (15.4 ppg)|
|Rebounds||669 (2.3 rpg)|
|Assists||701 (2.4 apg)|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
|Basketball Hall of Fame as player|
Dra?en Petrovi? (pronounced [dren p?tro?it?]; October 22, 1964 - June 7, 1993) was a Croatian professional basketball player. A shooting guard, he initially achieved success playing professional basketball in Europe in the 1980s, before joining the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1989.
A star on multiple stages, Petrovi? earned two silver medals and one bronze in Olympic basketball, a gold and a bronze in the FIBA World Cup, a gold and a bronze in the FIBA EuroBasket, and two EuroLeague titles. He represented Yugoslavia's national team and, later, Croatia's national team. He earned four Euroscars, and was named Mr. Europa twice. In 1985, he received the Golden Badge award for best athlete of Yugoslavia.
Seeking a bigger arena after his career start in Europe, Petrovi? joined the NBA in 1989, as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers. After playing mostly off the bench that year, Petrovi? experienced a breakthrough following a trade to the New Jersey Nets. While starting for the Nets, he became one of the league's best shooting guards and was in consideration for being the best shooter ever. Petrovi?'s career and life were cut short after he died in a car accident at the age of 28.
Petrovi? is considered the crucial part of the vanguard to the present-day mass influx of European players into the NBA. Petrovi?'s #3 was retired by the Nets in 1993, and in 2002, he was posthumously enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2013, he was voted the best European Basketball player in history, by players at the 2013 FIBA EuroBasket.
Born in ?ibenik, SR Croatia, SFR Yugoslavia, Dra?en Petrovi? was the second child of Jovan "Jole", a police officer, and Biserka, a librarian. His father, of Serb ethnicity, was born in Zagora, near Trebinje in Bosnia and Herzegovina. His mother was born in Bilice, near ?ibenik, and was from a traditional conservative Croat family, devoutly Roman Catholic. The couple's eldest child, Aleksandar, would be the first one to tread the basketball path, providing a lead for his younger sibling. The Petrovi? siblings are second cousins to the Serbian basketball player Dejan Bodiroga.
At the age of thirteen, Petrovi? started playing in the youth selections of the local club ?ibenka; at the age of fifteen he had already made the first team, just as ?ibenka earned a place in the Yugoslav national first division. With young Petrovi? as the star of the team, ?ibenka reached the final of the FIBA Radivoj Kora? Cup twice (1981-82 and 1982-83), losing to Limoges CSP both times. In 1983, the 18 year-old Petrovi? hit two free throws for ?ibenka's victory over Bosna in the final playoff game of the Yugoslavian club championship, but the title was taken away from ?ibenka the next day by the national basketball federation with irregularities in refereeing cited as the reason, and awarded to Bosna after ?ibenka refused to show up for the repeat match.
After spending a year serving the mandatory time in the military, Petrovi? followed his brother's footsteps and moved to Cibona to form, at that time, the best backcourt duo in Europe. The very first year in Cibona he won both the Yugoslav League championship and the Yugoslav National Cup. To top it all off, the 87-78 victory over the Spanish League club Real Madrid, to which Petrovi? contributed with 36 points, brought him and Cibona their first European Cup title. The second came the following year, as Petrovi? scored 22 points and Cibona defeated the USSR Premier League club ?algiris Kaunas, which starred the legendary Arvydas Sabonis. The same year brought another Yugoslav national cup title for Cibona, seeing Petrovi? score 46 against the old rival Bosna. In 1987, Petrovi? earned his third European trophy: a 2nd-tier European Cup Winners' Cup title against the Italian League club Scavolini Pesaro, whose net he filled with 28 points.
Petrovi?'s scoring average during the four years with Cibona stood at 37.7 points in the Yugoslavian first division and 33.8 in all of the European wide competitions that he played in, with personal one-time bests of 112 (40/60 FG, 10/20 3Pts, 22/22 FT) in the Yugoslavian League, and 62 points in the 3rd-tier European league, the Kora? Cup, respectively. His scoring sheet was often known to show 40, 50, even 60 in a single game; in a 1985-86 season European League game against Limoges, Petrovi? 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 League champions Simac Milano.
Petrovi? 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 Petrovi? in 1986. However, he decided to postpone his departure to the United States. In 1988, he signed with Real Madrid instead, for at that time a hefty sum of around US$4 million. The transfer wasn't without controversy as the Yugoslav sporting laws stipulated that players weren't allowed to professionally move abroad until reaching 28 years of age, while Petrovi? was still only 23 when he signed with the famous Madrid club. In 2014, José Antonio Arízaga, the sports agent who played a key role in Petrovi?'s summer 1988 transfer from Cibona to Real, recalled a few details from this transaction: "I spoke to Mirko Novosel, Dra?en's coach at Cibona, and he told me two things. One, every problem in Yugoslavia can be taken care of with the right amount of money, and two, if Dra?en leaves, every other player under 28 will be leaving and it'll be chaos. So, you can imagine all the individuals I had to bribe and all the places where I had to pay up in order to circumvent this law".
The 1988-89 season saw Petrovi? wear the colors of the Spanish ACB League basketball club Real Madrid. Although the Spanish national championship barely escaped them, as they lost to FC Barcelona in the fifth and decisive game of the league's final series, Petrovi? helped Real to win the Spanish King's Cup title over their Catalan rivals. Petrovi? also led the club to victory in the 2nd-tier European Cup Winners' Cup final against the Italian League club 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, Petrovi? finally stood firm in the decision to try to 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 Petrovi? joined the Blazers for the 1989-1990 season.
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The Blazers valued Petrovi? as a shooter, but were concerned that he might not possess the quickness to play guard or the foot speed to play defense. They brought him onto the team primarily as an outside threat to shoot three-pointers. In the Blazers' offensive scheme he was to set up behind the line, receive a passed ball and go directly up to release his shot. Petrovi? was an aggressive, attacking player who was used to creating his shot and shots for his teammates. Taking the ball out of his hands and making him a static shooter was foreign to him. Making matters worse, the Blazers already had a full rotation of guards, with a starting backcourt of Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter, and with veteran Danny Young as a reserve. Consequently, the reigning La Gazzetta dello Sport Euroscar European Player of the Year saw limited playing time. He had difficulty being productive in the limited role the Blazers had for him. In his rookie year during the 1989-90 NBA season, he averaged 7.4 points in 12 minutes playing time per game. The following season veteran guard Danny Ainge was added to the team, and Petrovi?'s playing time dropped further to 7 minutes a game. In many statements made prior to arriving in Portland, Petrovi? had said he saw a lack of playing time as the only possible obstacle to his success in the NBA. He was determined to be a success in basketball's highest arena. His lack of playing time during his second season in the league brought Petrovi?'s frustration to a climax: "I have nothing to say to Adelman any more and vice versa. Eighteen months have passed by, too long. I have to leave to prove how much I am worth. Never in my life did I sit on the bench and I don't intent to do that in Portland."
At his insistence, 38 games into the season (20 of which held no playing time for Petrovi?), a three-way trade with the Denver Nuggets sent him to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for a first-round pick in the following draft and Walter Davis, who was sent from Denver to Portland.
On January 23, 1991, Petrovi? became a member of the New Jersey Nets. He joined a team that had not reached the playoffs since 1986, but had rookie Derrick Coleman, the number one selection from the 1990 draft. He was immediately given a role on the floor, with 20.5 minutes per game. His scoring over the remaining 43 games increased to 12.6 points per game, one of the league's best points-per-minute ratios. The following year, he and Coleman were joined by Kenny Anderson, giving the team a third talented new addition. Petrovi? was made a starter for the 1991-92 season, his first full season with the Nets. Petro, as the Americans had dubbed him, did not miss a single game. His determination, hard work and aggressive on court demeanor established him as a team leader. In 36.9 minutes on the floor he averaged 20.6 points. Petrovic led the Nets in field-goal shooting and free-throw shooting, and his field goal percentage of 51% placed him near the top of all NBA guards. More importantly, his success translated into success for the team. The Nets made the playoffs, recording 14 more wins than the previous year. The following season saw Petrovi? increase his scoring average to 22.3 ppg, 11th best in the league. On December 6, he was named MVP of the Week. For the second season in a row he shot 45% from the three-point arc. His field goal percentage of 52% was again near the top for all guards. American media honored him with a selection to the All-NBA Third Team. However, he did not receive an invitation to the 1993 All-Star game. Among the top 13 scorers in the NBA that season, he was the only one not invited.
Petrovi?'s national team debut came at the age of 15, at the Under-18 Balkan Championship in Turkey, where the Yugoslavian junior team won the bronze. The young man regularly played for the Yugoslavian national team in the Balkan Championships, also winning gold with the junior team and silver with the senior team. He also brought back the silver from the 1982 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship in Bulgaria.
The 1984 Summer Olympics were Petrovi?'s first competition of a grand scale with the Yugoslav senior national team, and the bronze medal won in Los Angeles that summer became his first Olympic medal. Third place was also earned at the 1986 FIBA World Championship, remembered for the last minute thriller in the semi-final game against the Soviet Union. At the 1987 EuroBasket, Petrovi? again returned with bronze, as Yugoslavia lost to the hosts and gold medalists Greece. The University Games, held in Zagreb in 1987, saw the Yugoslavian squad with Petrovi? win the gold. In the 1988 Summer Olympics, Yugoslavia with Petrovi?, earned 2nd place, as they lost once more to the Soviet powerhouse.
An excellent club season with Real Madrid was topped by Petrovi?'s 1989 accomplishment with the Yugoslav national team: at the EuroBasket in Zagreb, the young Yugoslavian team went all the way, defeating Greece more than comfortably in the championship game. Petrovi? was the tournament's second leading scorer and most valuable player. The very next year, the summer in between the two most frustrating seasons of his professional career, as he struggled for playing time with the Trail Blazers, Petrovi? was again making history with the national team, as Yugoslavia became world champions, after beating the Soviet Union for the gold in Buenos Aires, at the 1990 FIBA World Championship.
The 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, marked the first summer Olympics featuring the independent Croatia, and Petrovi? was the leader of the Croatian national basketball team at the Olympic basketball tournament. Losing only to the American Dream Team in group stage, a strong and inspired Croatian team emerged victorious from the Semifinals against the revamped Soviet team, thanks to clutch free throws executed by Petrovi?, and faced off against the Americans for the gold. Urged on by Petrovi?'s competitiveness and confidence, the Croatians fared well in the first ten minutes of the game, taking a 25-23 lead on a Franjo Arapovi? dunk and the subsequent free throw. As the game progressed, however, the now-legendary team composed of NBA stars proved too tough for Croatia: the Americans won 117-85, sending Petrovi?, the game's leading scorer with 24 points, and his teammates, home with silver medals.
In the period during which Petrovi? played for the Croatian national team (from 1992 to 1993), he appeared in 40 games and scored 1,002 points. His highest point tally came against Estonia, on 31 May 1993 (48 points).
In the summer of 1993, after his best NBA season and the Nets' first-round elimination by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Petrovi? traveled to Berlin, 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 in 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 Petrovi? three-year contracts worth US$7.5 million net. It was rumored that Petrovi? verbally agreed on terms with Panathinaikos; 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 Petrovi?'s legend. Petrovi? decided to skip the connection flight back to Zagreb and drive with his girlfriend back to Croatia.
Petrovi? died in a traffic accident at approximately 17:20 on Monday, June 7, 1993, four and a half months before his 29th birthday. On the rain-drenched Autobahn 9, he was a passenger in a car that was cut off by a semi truck at Denkendorf, near Ingolstadt, in the German state of Bavaria. According to the report of the Ingolstadt police, that afternoon a truck broke through the Autobahn median; the truck driver was trying to avoid a collision with a personal vehicle in his own lane and lost control of the truck, crashing through the median barrier and finally coming to a stop blocking all three lanes of traffic in the opposite direction (Munich). Seconds later, the VW Golf carrying a sleeping Petrovi? in the passenger seat crashed into the truck, killing him and leaving the driver, Klara Szalantzy, a Hungarian model and basketball player with whom Petrovi? was romantically involved, and Hilal Edebal, a female Turkish basketball player, with grave injuries. It was established that visibility on the road was very poor and that Petrovi? was not buckled with a seatbelt.
Petrovi?'s tomb Mirogoj Cemetery instantly became a sanctuary for his compatriots. The Cibona stadium was renamed the Dra?en Petrovi? Basketball Hall on October 4, 1993, and the city of Zagreb dedicated a square in his name, which was later followed by ?ibenik and Vukovar, while Petrinja dedicated him a street. The Nets retired his number 3 jersey on November 11, 1993. After 1994, the MVP award at the McDonald's Championship had borne the name Drazen Petrovic Trophy, and the Croatian Olympic Committee's award for young athletes has borne his name since 2006. On April 29, 1995, a statue commemorating Petrovi?'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 Ivani?evi? dedicated the win to his late friend Petrovi?; Ivani?evi? wore Petrovi?'s Nets jersey amidst the 100,000 strong crowd celebrating his victory in Split. Petrovi? was inducted posthumously into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2006, the 13th anniversary of Petrovi?'s death was marked with the opening of the Dra?en Petrovi? Memorial Center in Zagreb, dedicated to his life and achievements, with ten themed galleries of multimedia content outlining his entire career and a four meter high statue of Dra?en in shooting position in front of it. Petrovi? was enshrined in the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2007.at
The 2010 documentary, Once Brothers (part of the ESPN 30 for 30 series), portrays the achievements of the Yugoslavia national basketball team in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and how the Yugoslav Wars tore the team apart. It explores Petrovi?'s broken friendship with Serbian/Yugoslav player Vlade Divac. In 2011, a statue of him as a little boy sitting on a bench with a ball was unveiled in ?ibenik, and his old room was renovated the way it looked when he was young, as a first part of opening a Memorial Center in his hometown. During the 2012 Three Point Shootout, New Jersey Nets guard Anthony Morrow wore Petrovi?'s jersey in the latter's honor. In 2015, Australian writer Todd Spehr released a 470-page biography on Petrovi?, Dra?en: The Remarkable Life & Legacy of the Mozart of Basketball. On June 3, 2015. Croatian basketball journalists Marjan Crnogaj and Vlado Radicevic released a 487-page (462 footnote) unofficial biography  which global paperback edition (472 pages, 679 footnotes, 50 photos) was released on October 14, 2017 .
|"||It's hard for you to imagine here in America, because you have so many great players, but we are a country of four million; without him, basketball takes three steps back.||"|
|-- Aleksandar "Aco" Petrovi?|
|"||You know, there is a saying that we have about JFK, John F. Kennedy - "You know, Johnny, we never got to know you." And I kind of feel that way about Dra?en. I felt that the whole year that I was with him went by too fast and I really never got to know him the way I would have liked to.||"|
|-- Chuck Daly|
|"||Dra?en and I were very good friends. I was one of those people who welcomed him to Portland when he came from Europe. We talked about his family a lot in his restaurant, and he enjoyed his friends and he enjoyed the game of basketball. I really respect him because he worked very, very hard. Each and every day in practice he would be the first guy to come and the last guy to leave the gym. So anybody with that kind of dedication...you have to have a lot of respect for him.||"|
|-- Clyde Drexler|
|"||Dra?en Petrovi? 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.||"|
|-- David Stern|
|"||It was a thrill to play against Dra?en. Every time we competed, he competed with an aggressive attitude. He wasn't nervous; he came at me as hard as I came at him. So, we've had some great battles in the past and unfortunately, they were short battles.||"|
|-- Michael Jordan|
(3rd-tier European League)
(3rd-tier European League)
|1985||European Champions Cup (EuroLeague)
(1st-tier European League)
|1986||European Champions Cup (EuroLeague)
(1st-tier European League)
|1987||European Cup Winners' Cup
(2nd-tier European League)
(3rd-tier European League)
|1989||Spanish Cup||Winner||Real Madrid|
|1989||Spanish Championship||Finalist||Real Madrid|
|1989||European Cup Winners' Cup
(2nd-tier European League)
|1990||NBA Playoffs||Finalist||Portland Trail Blazers|
|1980||Balkan Championship for Junior Men||Istanbul, Turkey||
|1981||Balkan Championship for Cadets||Thessaloniki, Greece||
|1982||Balkan Championship for Junior Men||Patras, Greece||
|1982||FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship||Dimitrovgrad and Haskovo, Bulgaria||
|1983||University Games||Edmonton, Canada||
|1984||Balkan Championship||Athens, Greece||
|1984||Summer Olympic Games||Los Angeles, United States||
|1986||FIBA World Championship||Madrid, Spain||
|1987||University Games||Zagreb, Yugoslavia||
|1987||FIBA EuroBasket||Athens, Greece||
|1988||Summer Olympic Games||Seoul, South Korea||
|1989||FIBA EuroBasket||Zagreb, Yugoslavia||
|1990||FIBA World Championship||Buenos Aires, Argentina||
|1992||Summer Olympic Games||Barcelona, Spain||
A museum named "The Dra?en Petrovi? Memorial Center" was founded in his honor, and constitutes a co-operative effort led by the Dra?en Petrovi? Foundation in conjunction with the Croatian government, the city of Zagreb and the Croatian Museum of Sports. The memorial center idea originated from Petrovi?'s parents, Biserka and Jole Petrovic, and was supported with the contributions of Croatian architects Andrija Rusan and Niksa Bilic. All of the articles presented in the center have been collected and categorized by the Croatian Museum of Sports. The organization and operations of the center have been provided by the Dra?en Petrovi? Foundation, which is led by Petrovi?'s family. The Center contains his No. 3 New Jersey Nets jersey and the watch that stopped when he died in a car crash. The center features 1,000 memorabilia items and a video of his basketball highlights.
The official opening of the museum was held on June 7, 2006, while the official opening of the center to the public began at the end of December 2006. The square on which the center is operated upon has been renamed to Dra?en Petrovi? Square in his honor. In 2013, former NBA MVP Derrick Rose visited the museum.
His father was a Serb and his mother a Croat, and he competed for Croatia
Petrovic, whose father is a Serb