Divac in September 2007
February 3, 1968|
Prijepolje, SR Serbia, SFR Yugoslavia
|Listed height||7 ft 1 in (2.16 m)|
|Listed weight||243 lb (110 kg)|
|NBA draft||1989 / Round: 1 / Pick: 26th overall|
|Selected by the Los Angeles Lakers|
|1989-1996||Los Angeles Lakers|
|2004-2005||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NBA statistics|
|Points||13,398 (11.8 ppg)|
|Rebounds||9,326 (8.2 rpg)|
|Blocks||1,631 (1.4 bpg)|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
|FIBA Hall of Fame as player|
Vlade Divac (Serbian Cyrillic: , pronounced [?l?:de d?:?ats]; born February 3, 1968) is a Serbian professional basketball executive and retired player, currently serving as the vice president of basketball operations and general manager of the Sacramento Kings.
Divac spent most of his career in the National Basketball Association (NBA). At , he played center and was known for his passing skills. He was among the first group of European basketball players to transfer to the NBA in the late 1980s and was named one of the 50 Greatest EuroLeague Contributors. He is one of seven players in NBA history to record 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocked shots, along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, and Hakeem Olajuwon.[n 1] Divac was also the first player born and trained outside the United States to play in over 1,000 games in the NBA. On August 20, 2010, he was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame in recognition of his play in international competition.
Aside from being noticed for his basketball abilities, Divac is also known as a humanitarian, helping children in his native country of Serbia, and in Africa. In October 2008, he was appointed as government adviser in Serbia for humanitarian issues. In February 2009, he was elected President of the Serbian Olympic Committee for a 4-year term  and re-elected in November 2012. In 2013, Divac received an honor from the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.
Divac began playing basketball in his home town Prijepolje for the team KK Elan. He began his professional career in Yugoslavia playing for Sloga from Kraljevo, and was immediately noted for scoring 27 points against Crvena zvezda.
In the 1986-87 Yugoslav First League season, with players like Divac, Aleksandar ?or?evi?, ?arko Paspalj, ?eljko Obradovi?, and with coach Du?ko Vujo?evi? at the helm, Partizan had a "dream team", which won the Yugoslavian League title. In the subsequent 1987-88 FIBA European Champions Cup season (now called EuroLeague), the club failed to reach the top of the EuroLeague, after having lost to Maccabi Tel Aviv in the semifinal in Ghent.Jugoplastika, with Dino Ra?a and Toni Kuko?, was a stronger team in the subsequent three years, reigning both in Yugoslavia and in Europe.
Divac had an unusual style compared to most other centers of his generation: despite his height, he possessed good mobility, had good control of the ball, and was a decent shooter. On occasion, he would also act as a play maker. His trademark moves included a mid-range shot at the top of the key and flip shots around the rim, while facing the complete opposite direction. His quirky moves complemented how he liked playing gags on the court: in the 1989 EuroBasket, he lifted teammate Zoran Radovi? for a slam dunk. In just four professional seasons in Europe, he became the most sought-after big man on the continent, after Arvydas Sabonis.
Drafted into the NBA in 1989 by the Los Angeles Lakers, Divac became one of the first European players to have an impact in the league. Under the mentorship of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, he improved his play and adapted to the American style of basketball. Though he spoke no English, he quickly became popular among his teammates and the public for his charm and joviality. In the 1989–90 season, he was selected into the NBA All-Rookie Team.
Divac earned a reputation for flopping, or deceiving the officials into calling a foul on the other team by purposely falling to the floor upon contact with an opposing player. Veteran NBA forward P. J. Brown claimed that Divac might have been the best of all time at flopping. Divac freely admitted doing so, adding that he usually did it when he felt like the officials had missed some calls and owed him. However, when the NBA instituted anti-flopping penalties in 2012, Divac expressed his support for such rules, stating that he felt players after him were "overdo[ing] it" with respect to flopping. Ian Thomsen, a Sports Illustrated columnist, grouped Divac with fellow international players Anderson Varejão and Manu Ginóbili as the players who "made [flopping] famous", exaggerating contact on the court in a manner analogous to diving in FIFA games.
His debut for the crveno-beli took place mid-season, on Orthodox Christmas, versus a heavily favoured ?algiris side led by Tyus Edney, Mindaugas ?ukauskas, Saulius ?tombergas, and Ji?í Zídek Jr.. Supported by a raucous home crowd and energized by Divac's arrival, as well as his 16 points and 8 rebounds, Crvena zvezda pulled off a 77-69 memorable upset win.
Divac's brief stint with Crvena zvezda, for which he reportedly got paid US$250,000 per game, immediately became a sore point with KK Partizan fans, who unfurled a banner calling him a traitor, at their club's next game.
The issue of playing for the hated cross-town rival reignited several years later, when Divac returned to KK Partizan as club president. At the time, he stated his decision to play for Crvena zvezda was "a mistake".
He then signed as a free agent with the Sacramento Kings where he played for six seasons alongside fellow countryman Peja Stojakovi?. Teamed with Stojakovi?, Hedo Türko?lu, Chris Webber and Mike Bibby; Divac revitalized the Sacramento Kings franchise. The Kings rose in the NBA ranks, becoming a perennial playoff contender and eventually a championship contender, leading the league in wins in 2001-02. The Kings, however, could not get past the Los Angeles Lakers, who beat them in a 7-game series in 2002. 
After the 2003-04 NBA season, Divac became a free agent. He signed a deal to return to the Lakers, part of Mitch Kupchak's plan to overhaul Laker basketball. The Lakers, following a defeat in the NBA Finals, had traded away or released most of their players, including Shaquille O'Neal, Gary Payton, Karl Malone, Derek Fisher, and more; Divac was supposed to help fill that void.
However, Divac suffered back problems and could not play most of the season, and even when he returned, could only play about nine minutes per game, averaging 2.3 points per game and 2.1 rebounds per game in 15 games, he played 8 games early in the season and 7 more in the final month of the season.
On 14 July 2005, 37-year-old Divac announced his retirement, ending his sixteen-year NBA and twenty-two-year professional basketball career. Divac accepted a position with the Lakers as a European liaison to help with scouting overseas.
The Kings retired his No. 21 jersey in a ceremony on March 31, 2009. Over his 16 years in the NBA, Divac earned over $93,000,000 in salary. In September 2009, he played for the "NBA Generations" team in the 2009 NBA Asia Challenge, a series of exhibitions against Korean Basketball League and Philippine Basketball Association players.
In summer 1986, at 18, right after signing for KK Partizan, Divac debuted for the senior Yugoslavia national basketball team at the 1986 FIBA World Championship in Madrid, on invitation by the head coach Kre?imir ?osi?. However, the excellent rookie's performance was spoiled by the event in the semi-finals against the Soviet Union. Forty-five seconds before the end, Yugoslavia had a comfortable lead of 9 points, but the Soviets scored two three-pointers within a few seconds and cut the difference to 3 points. Yugoslavia tried to hold the ball for the remaining time, opting to continue the play with throw-ins instead of free throws following fouls, but with only 14 seconds left, Divac committed a double dribble, the Soviets were awarded the ball, and tied the score with another three-pointer. In the overtime, the Soviets easily prevailed against the shocked Yugoslavs, who had to be content with the bronze.
The next year, Divac participated in the team that took the gold at the FIBA Junior World Championship (since split into separate under-19 and under-21 events) in Bormio, Italy. That event launched the young generation of Yugoslavian basket ballers, also featuring stars like Ra?a and Kuko?, regarded as likely the best in history. Before the breakup of Yugoslavia, they would also take the titles at EuroBasket 1989 and the 1990 FIBA World Championship in Argentina, where they were led by Dra?en Petrovi?, as well as the EuroBasket 1991 title, with Aleksandar ?or?evi? at point guard.
When Yugoslavia won the gold in the 1990 FIBA World Championship, fans rushed onto the court. One of them was holding a Croatian flag, one of the six republics that made up Yugoslavia. Divac claims that he told the man that he should not be waving that flag, since this was a win for Yugoslavia. Divac claims the man made a derogatory remark about the Yugoslav flag, at which point Divac took his flag from him. This happened during a very tense time where nationalistic pride was threatening to tear Yugoslavia apart and ignite a war. The taking of the flag made Divac a hero to Serbs, and a villain to Croatians. Divac has stated that he did not mean it as an act against Croatia and he would have taken away a Serbian flag if a Serb fan had done the same.
This action, along with the Yugoslav Wars, alienated Divac from many of his former Croatian friends, particularly Dra?en Petrovi?, whom he considered his best friend. When Yugoslavia won EuroBasket 1995, and Croatia won bronze, Croatia, still at war with Serbs from Croatia, walked off the podium during the medal ceremony. The teams had not faced each other in the tournament.
Through the twilight of his playing career and afterwards, Divac focused on three fields: humanitarian work, sport management, and investment.
In late 2000, following the overthrow of Slobodan Milo?evi? whose policies Divac had been openly critical of throughout mid-to-late 1990s, Divac and former teammate Predrag Danilovi? took over their former club KK Partizan. They did so on initiative by Ivica Da?i?, the club's outgoing president and, more importantly, a suddenly marginalized politician who, due to his association with Milo?evi?, was forced to leave his post at the club. Seeing that various state-owned companies and community property were being taken over in a dubious manner during the power vacuum that resulted from régime change, Da?i? saw it prudent to bring the club's two former greats as a safeguard against the same happening to KK Partizan. Divac became the club's president while Danilovi? took the vice-president role.
Freshly retired from playing, Danilovi? was actually running the club's day-to-day operations since Divac was still very actively involved with the Sacramento Kings at the time. The head coach they inherited, Darko Russo, finished out the 2000-01 season before they decided in summer 2001 to bring back their mentor Du?ko Vujo?evi? to be the new head coach.
Though the duo never stated so outright, their additional motivation in getting involved with KK Partizan again was perceived to be gaining the upper hand on the club's eventual privatisation process once the new Law on Sports gets passed in the Serbian parliament. Since the exact ownership structure of a publicly owned KK Partizan wasn't and still isn't really clear, potential investors decided to stay away, at least until the law appears. Divac and Danilovi? appeared pretty much out of nowhere in this regard but enjoyed plenty of fan and public support because most preferred to see their beloved club owned and operated by its former stars rather than a faceless corporation or a group of politicians, managers or businessmen close to the ruling coalition. However, after a few years the duo ran out of patience and pulled out of the venture in late 2004 because it became too much of a financial burden with no end-goal in sight. While he stopped performing any official functions at the club, Divac continued to be involved with it in a lesser capacity for a few years afterwards.
In October 2005, right after ending his playing career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Divac got hired as the Lakers' European scout, reporting directly to the team's general manager Mitch Kupchak. He left the position in 2006.
In June 2006, through his friendship with Predrag Mijatovi?, Divac linked up with Ramón Calderón as part of the lawyer's candidate bid for the presidency of Real Madrid polideportivo. When Calderón closely won the club elections on 2 July 2006, Divac was announced as the head of operations at Real Madrid basketball club though the scope of his job description soon got reduced to consulting duties as president Calderón's adviser for basketball and club's international coordinator.
However, Divac's role in the club's day-to-day operations turned out to be largely symbolic, and he even admitted as much in a March 2007 interview for Croatian weekly Globus: "I literally do nothing and I only serve as part of the royal club's image. I only accepted the job because of Mijatovi?, who is currently the football director at Real". By the end of 2007, following a financial settlement between the two parties, Divac moved on from the post for which he had been reportedly receiving an annual compensation of EUR300,000.
In October 2008, Divac's political advisory engagement within the Serbian government as the sports, diaspora, and humanitarian advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister and Internal Affairs Minister Ivica Da?i?, got announced.
Divac was proposed in 2000 as Yugoslavia's candidate for the Sport Commission of the International Olympic Committee in spring 2000. This candidature was withdrawn under pressure from Milo?evi? regime. In February 2009, Divac ran for presidency of the Olympic Committee of Serbia against incumbent president Ivan ?urkovi?. He won the race after ?urkovi? withdrew just before the scheduled voting. In November 2012, he was re-elected as the sole candidate; the end of his second mandate coincides with the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
In December 2014, Kosovo was accepted as a full member of the International Olympic Committee. Divac and the Serbian Olympic Committee have been criticised, chiefly by the Democratic Party of Serbia, for failing to take any effort to prevent that. Divac stated that he is not happy with the decision of the IOC, but could not have prevented it as it had already been made, and said he would accept it "in the interest of the athletes".
In early March 2015, Divac was hired by the Sacramento Kings as their vice president of basketball and franchise operations. Brought into the organization by the principal owner Vivek Ranadivé towards the end of a turbulent season, Divac's arrival came in the wake of head coach Mike Malone's firing and the eventual hiring of George Karl. Working alongside the team's general manager Pete D'Alessandro, Divac's initial duties with the Kings were reported to be advising the front office and coaches as well as assisting with branding and fan outreach. However, such broadly defined job responsibilities immediately led to press speculation about Divac's role within the organization that in addition to general manager D'Alessandro also featured assistant GM Mike Bratz, special assistant to the GM Mitch Richmond, director of player personnel and analytics Dean Oliver, adviser to the chairman Chris Mullin, as well as a head coach, Karl, who has always wanted to be involved in personnel issues. Within a month of Divac's hiring, ESPN's Marc Stein reported that "despite the Kings not yet announcing their new power structure, Divac is indeed already regarded as the team's top basketball official by owner Ranadivé".
On 10 June 2015, two weeks before the NBA draft, general manager D'Alessandro left the Kings by accepting a front-office position with the Denver Nuggets amid reports he did so due to being stripped of his decision-making power after Ranadivé hired Divac.
Only days before the draft, animosity between head coach Karl and the team's star center DeMarcus Cousins reignited, as Karl reportedly lobbied Divac, as well as multiple players on the Kings' roster, in order to make the case to owner Ranadive that Cousins needs to be traded. As a result, against the backdrop of Cousins calling Karl a "snake" on Twitter, Divac reportedly discussed multiple Cousins trade scenarios with various teams, but ultimately no deal got made. At the 2015 NBA draft, with the 6th pick, the Kings selected 21-year-old center Willie Cauley-Stein out of Kentucky. Less than a week following the draft, with the dissolution of the Karl--Cousins relationship on public display, the Kings' ultimately unsuccessful attempt at landing University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari to replace Karl got reported.
Then in early July 2015, in an effort of clearing salary cap space in order to immediately go after free agents, they agreed a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, sending Nick Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson along with the Kings' future first round draft pick to the Sixers as well as the rights to swap first round picks in 2016 and 2017 while receiving the rights to Sixers oversees players Art?ras Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovi? in return. Two days later, they agreed the acquisitions of two free agents: twenty-nine-year-old Marco Belinelli on a three-year US$19 million contract and twenty-nine-year-old point guard Rajon Rondo for one year for US$10 million. This was followed by signing twenty-six-year-old center Kosta Koufos for four years and US$33 million with his role envisioned as backup for Cousins.
With the free agent signings done, Divac turned his attention to attempting to mend the relations between the team's head coach Karl and its star center Cousins ahead of the 2015-16 season, admitting publicly on 9 July 2015 on CBS Sports Radio's The Jim Rome Show that the relationship between the two "isn't pretty right now". A few days later, on 13 July 2015, during a 2015 NBA Summer League game in Las Vegas, the two shared an awkward on-camera handshake as Karl approached and Cousins reluctantly shook the coach's hand before turning away. Later that week, Divac summoned Cousins and Karl to a private counseling session.
Divac was promoted to the Kings' vice president of basketball operations and general manager on 31 August 2015.
Amid a tense and incident-filledseason that saw the team briefly reach the final playoff spot in the Western Conference before unravelling with extended losing streaks in late January and early February 2016, the organization reportedly made a decision to fire their head coach George Karl during the upcoming All-Star break, a move pushed for by Divac. However, in a quick about-face, Karl got retained after meeting with Divac and reportedly pledging to make changes to address concerns within the organization about his defensive schemes and practice policies. It was later reported that the move to fire Karl on this occasion got scuttled by the Kings minority owners over financial concerns. Month and a half later, in late March 2016, Divac signed a multi-year contract extension with the organization. The team finished the season 33-49, eight games out of the playoffs, good for 10th spot in the Western Conference. Their final season in Sleep Train Arena, the team's home since 1988, it was also their first 30 plus win campaign after seven consecutive seasons of fewer than 30 wins.
Early into the team's off-season, in mid April 2016, the Kings organization fired head coach George Karl, a decision made by Divac who had reportedly been pushing for it for months. Within three weeks, during which Divac interviewed head coaching candidates Sam Mitchell, Vinny Del Negro, Mike Woodson, David Blatt, Mark Jackson, Jeff Hornacek, Nate McMillan, Patrick Ewing, Elston Turner, and Corliss Williamson, the Kings hired Dave Joerger as their new head coach, signing him to a four-year deal worth US$16 million. At the 2016 NBA draft, with the 8th pick, the Kings selected Marquese Chriss out of the University of Washington, but traded him to the Phoenix Suns for rights to Bogdan Bogdanovi? as well as the Suns' 2016 draft 13th and 28th picks, Georgios Papagiannis and Skal Labissière, respectively.
Divac has been involved in many non-basketball endeavors while still actively playing in the NBA, and more so after he retired. He is an active restaurant investor in the Sacramento, California area. However, his attempts to make major investments in Serbia failed, for a variety of reasons.
The most notable affair was a highly publicized business venture--takeover bid of profitable beverage producer Knjaz Milo?. Divac's company "Apurna", in a joint venture with French dairy giant Danone, ostensibly proposed the best bid, but the takeover was aborted by the Serbia's Securities Commission, because Danone/Apurna allegedly offered extra money to small shareholders. In the repeated bid, Divac and Danone eventually withdrew and the sale went to FPP Balkan Ltd., a privatization fund from the Cayman Islands. The entire messy affair caused great friction within the Serbian government, wide speculation about corruption, resignation of the Securities Commission chief, and even a police investigation.
Another similar, though less spectacular, episode happened with 2005 Divac's attempt to take over the Ve?ernje novosti, a Serbian high-circulation daily. He made an agreement with small shareholders to take over the company by means of registering a new company with joint capital, which would increase the share capital. However, the Serbian Government intervened and halted what should have been a mere technical move. While the attempted takeover was a "backdoor" one indeed, it was legal and similar cases had already happened. The government ostensibly feared lack of control over the influential daily. Even though the Supreme Court of Serbia eventually ruled in Divac's favor, he withdrew from the contest, citing "friendly advice" by unnamed persons. Embittered, he decided to stop his attempts to invest in Serbia: "All of this is ugly and I'm very upset... I realized that there's no place for me in Serbia and my friends can meet me in Madrid from now on... In Serbia, some different rules are in effect, and I can't conceive them".
However, that turned out not to be true, as in October 2007 Divac got legally registered as 100% owner of Voda Voda, a bottled water brand previously owned by businessman Vojin ?or?evi?. That transaction was also followed by a stir of controversy, as ?or?evi? publicly accused Divac of deceit, asserting that he broke a gentlemen's agreement they had, and questioning the validity of the contract that Divac presented to the Serbian Business Registers Agency. The circumstances surrounding the deal (as of November 2007) are still unclear: Divac claims that he indeed loaned some money to the ?or?evi?'s Si&Si company, which was in financial troubles, and after ?or?evi? failed to fulfill his part of the deal, just used the contract, already properly signed by ?or?evi?, to claim ownership of the company.
Divac is a humanitarian worker, focusing on aid to children worldwide and refugees in his home country. Along with six Serbian basketball teammates, Divac established the charity called Group Seven, later renamed to "Divac's Children Foundation", and works closely with International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), helping them to raise around US$500,000 for humanitarian assistance in Serbia since 1997. Divac's own foundation, presided by his wife Sne?ana, provided over $2,500,000 in humanitarian assistance through 1998-2007.
In late 2007 Divac founded a humanitarian organization, "You Can Too" (Serbian: ? /Mo?e? i ti), bent on assisting the refugees in Serbia. Serbia has around 500,000 refugees from the 1990s Yugoslav wars, making it the country with the largest refugee problem in Europe. Around 7,800 of those people still live in collective centers under poor conditions, so the organization has vouched itself to buy abandoned countryside houses, in an attempt to finally solve their accommodation problem.
From September 21 to 23, 2007, Divac organized an official farewell from active basketball career in his hometown Prijepolje and Belgrade, simultaneously promoting the "You Can Too" campaign. The spectacle culminated in gathering of Divac and his worldwide friends in front of 10,000 people outside the National Assembly building.
In the early 1990s, the song "Vlade Divac" by Belgrade band Deca Lo?ih Muzi?ara, devoted to his transfer to Lakers, was a big hit; the band finally got to personally meet Divac and perform the song with him on his farewell party in 2007.
During his time with the Lakers, Divac's popularity and marketing potential, in addition to his entertaining and good-natured personality, were picked up on by the American TV industry. As a result, he appeared quite a few times on Los Angeles-based late night programmes such as The Arsenio Hall Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In 1990, he was featured in a commercial with Laker teammates A. C. Green and Mychal Thompson for the Schick brand razors company. He also appeared in American sitcoms Married... with Children and Coach, as well as in the short lived Good Sports sitcom. On the big screen Divac took part in basketball-based movies Eddie, Space Jam and Juwanna Mann. Later in his career, he appeared on Larry King Live in 1999 and The Late Late Show in 2002.
In Serbia, all throughout his playing career, Divac regularly appeared in commercials pitching products ranging from Atlas Beer to Société Générale Bank mortgage credit plans. He appeared in a national TV commercial in the United States alongside former NBA star Darryl Dawkins for Taco Bell.
Divac features in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Once Brothers, where he discusses the exploits of the Yugoslavia national basketball team in the late 1980s and early 1990s and how the Yugoslav Wars tore them apart, especially in context of his broken friendship with Croatian player Dra?en Petrovi?.
The ugly trend of faking physical contact began in soccer, a sport in which gamesmanship has given way to players writhing in false agony around the world. Soccer has been unable to fix its problem, but now the NBA will have an opportunity to deter players from trying to simulate violent contact in ways made famous by Vlade Divac, Manu Ginobili and Anderson Varejao.