With the FIBA World Championships currently going on in Istanbul, Turkey, I think it only fitting to bring an international flair to Hoopography today. One of my all-time favorite and internationally beloved players to ever step on a court is Drazen Petrovic. Born in Sibenic, Croatia, Petrovic had a brilliant basketball career in both Europe and the NBA. Petrovic was given the nickname "Croatian Mozart" because of his knack of turning basketball into an art form, but Petrovic's obsession and intensity was also duly noted by the games greats. Michael Jordan said of Petrovic, " It was a thrill to play against Drazen. Every time we competed, he came with an aggressive attitude. 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".
Drazen led numerous Euro clubs to FIBA Euro Championships, his national team to international prominence and the NJ nets to the playoffs. Yes, the NJ Nets to the NBA Playoffs. If you're not old enough to remember Petrovic, you know he must have been spectacular to accomplish a feat like that. The truth is however, we didn't get long enough to truly witness his greatness. He spent four seasons in the NBA. A season and a half was spent as a reserve on the Portland Trailblazers from '90 - '91. The '92 and '93 seasons were spent as the leader of a young, but talented NJ Nets team. While with the Nets, Petrovic averaged 20.6 points, 1.3 steals and 3.1 assists/game in '92 and 22.3 points, 1.3 steals and 3.5 assists/game in '93. He also was named to the All-NBA 3rd Team in 1993.
Sadly, Petrovic's stellar 1993 campaign was his last. He passed away on June 7th, 1993, as a passenger in an automobile accident. He and a two others were traveling back to Croatia from a European basketball tournament. While driving on the German Autobahn, the VW Golf Petrovic and two others were traveling in hit a truck that lost control from the oncoming lane. Visibility and vehicle control were limited due to rain. Petrovic was 28 years old.
Drazen Petrovic is not a player that you collect autographed or shiny 90's inserts of. His time and legend predate that era in card collecting history. Simply, you collect the memories that you can find on cards like the '93 Upper Deck Game Faces card pictured in this post or the 80's and 90's Panini Euro stickers. I collect many players and sets, but Petrovic cards and stickers are high on that list.
I'm a New York Knicks fan today, I followed Michael Jordan through his rarefied air in the 90's, but I've always had an affinity in my heart for Drazen and Croatian/Yugoslavian basketball. As younger fans today learn the game Petrovic loved so much, and its history, they will hopefully hear the name and legend of the "Croatian Mozart".