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Dražen Petrović
Position(s) Shooting Guard
Jersey #(s) 44, 3 ,4
Listed height 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Listed weight 200 lb (91 kg)
Born October 22, 1964
Šibenik, SR Croatia, SFR Yugoslavia
Died June 7, 1993 (aged 28)
Bavaria, Germany
Career information
Year(s) 1979–1993
NBA Draft 1986 / Round: 3 / Pick: 60

Selected by Portland Trail Blazers

Professional team(s)
Career stats (NBA)
Points     4,461
Assists     701
Rebounds     669
Stats @
Career highlights and awards
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
The title of this article contains the following characters: ž and ć. Where they are unavailable or not desired, the name may be represented as Drazen Petrovic.

Dražen Petrović, (October 22, 1964 – June 7, 1993) was a professional basketball player from Croatia. 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 cut short in mid-career in an auto accident in Germany at just twenty-eight.

A star on multiple stages, Petrović earned two Silver Medals and one Bronze in Olympic basketball, a Gold and a Bronze in the FIBA World Championship, a Gold and a Bronze in the FIBA European Championship, earned four Euroscar Awards, and was named Mr. Europa in basketball twice.

Seeking a bigger arena after his career start in Europe, Petrović joined the National Basketball Association in 1989 as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers. After playing mostly off the bench that year, Petrović experienced a break-out following a trade to the New Jersey Nets, starting and becoming one of the league's best shooting guards.

Petrović is considered the crucial part of the vanguard to the present-day mass influx of European players into the NBA.[1] Petrović's #3 was retired by the Nets in 1993 and in 2002, he was posthumously enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.[2]


Early years

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 basketball 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.[3]

Rise to European stardom


Medal record
Competitor for  Yugoslavia,  Croatia
Olympic Games
Bronze 1984 Los Angeles Yugoslavia
Silver 1988 Seoul Yugoslavia
Silver 1992 Barcelona Croatia
FIBA World Championship
Bronze 1986 Spain Yugoslavia
Gold 1990 Argentina Yugoslavia
FIBA European Championship
Bronze 1987 Greece Yugoslavia
Gold 1989 Yugoslavia Yugoslavia

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.[4]

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.[5] 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;[6] the same season he scored 45 points and dished out 25 assists against the reigning Italian champions Simac.[7][8] 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. However, he decided to postpone his departure to the United States and in 1988 signed with Real Madrid instead, for at that time a hefty sum of around US$ 4 million.[9]

Real Madrid

The 1988-1989 season saw Petrović wear the colors of the Spanish 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).[9] 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).[5]

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)[10] and Petrović joined the Blazers for the 1989-1990 season.

NBA period


In his many statements prior to arriving in Portland, Petrović voiced lack of playing time as the only possible obstacle to his success in the NBA;[9][11] in his first season with the Blazers, those concerns were realized. With Portland's starting backcourt of Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter already established, the reigning European Player of the Year was reduced to playing 12 minutes per game - minutes collected largely in "garbage time" - allowing him a mere 7.4 points per game.[12] The beginning of the 1990-1991 season brought Petrović's frustration to a climax, as his playing time dropped to 7 minutes a game.[12] At his insistence, 38 games into the season (in 20 of which Petrović didn't see any playing time), 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.[12][13][14]

New Jersey

Nets jersey of Dražen Petrović

On January 23, 1991, Petrović became a member of the New Jersey Nets. Petrović was now a part of a team that featured two of the best young prospects in the league, Kenny Anderson and Derrick Coleman, but a team that hadn't reached the playoffs since 1986. Determined to not let the Portland episode repeat, he immediately responded to the increased playing time (20.5 minutes per game), holding a scoring average of 12.6 points per game in 43 games with the Nets. His first complete season with the Nets was truly stellar: not missing a single game, Petro, as the Americans had dubbed him, averaged 20.6 points in 36.9 minutes on the floor, nearly leading all NBA guards in field goal percentage (51%); he established himself as the team leader and was named team MVP. More significantly, his success translated into team success, as the Nets recorded 14 more wins than the season before and made the playoffs. For his encore, in 1992-1993 season Petrović increased his scoring average (22.3, 11th best that season) and repeated the excellent three-point field goal percentage from the previous season (45%), again nearly leading all guards in field goal percentage (52%). American media honored him with a selection to the All-NBA 3rd Team. However, a failure to receive an invitation to the 1993 All-Star game came as a great disappointment to Petrović; among the top 13 scorers in the NBA that season, he was the only one not invited.[15][16]

National teams

Petrović's national team debut came at the age of 15, at the U-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. In 1982 he also brought back the silver from the European Championship for Junior Men in Greece.

The 1984 Summer Olympics were Petrović's first competition of a grand scale with the senior national team, and the bronze medal won in Los Angeles that summer became his first Olympic trophy. Third place was also earned at the World Championship in 1986, remembered for the last minute thriller in the semi-final game against the Soviet Union. From the European Championship in 1987 Petrović 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 Petrović win the gold. In the 1988 Summer Olympics Yugoslavia with Petrović earned 2nd place, as they lost once more to the Soviet powerhouse.[4]

Dražen Petrović grave

An excellent club season with Real Madrid was topped by Petrović's 1989 accomplishment with the national team: at the Eurobasket in Zagreb the young Yugoslavian team went all the way, defeating Greece more than comfortably in the championship game. Petrović 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, Petrović was again making history with the national team, as Yugoslavia became world champions, beating the Soviet Union for the gold in Buenos Aires.[17]

1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona marked the first summer olympiad featuring the independent Croatia, and Petrović was the leader of the Croatian national basketball team at the Olympic basketball tournament. Losing only to the American Dream Team in round-robin play, a strong and inspired Croatian team emerged victorious from the semi-final against the revamped Soviet team thanks to clutch free throws executed by Petrović, and faced off against the Americans for the gold. Urged on by Petrović's competitiveness and confidence,[1] the Croatians fared well in the first ten minutes of the game, taking a 25-23 lead on a Franjo Arapović dunk and the subsequent free-throw[citation needed]. As the game progressed, however, the now-legendary team composed of NBA stars proved too tough for Croatia: the Americans won 117-85, sending Petrović, the game's leading scorer with 24 points, and his teammates home with silver medals.[1][18]

In the period during which Petrović played for the Croatian national team (from 1992 to 1993), he appeared in 40 games and scored 1002 points. His highest point tally came against Estonia on May 31, 1993 (48 points).[19]

Death and posthumous glory

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.[14] 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. For personal reasons, Petrović decided to return to Croatia in a private vehicle.

Petrović died as a passenger in a car involved in a traffic accident on the rain-drenched Autobahn 9 at Denkendorf, near Ingolstadt, in the German state of Bavaria, at approximately 17:20 on June 7, 1993, four and a half months before his 29th birthday.

According to the report of the Ingolstadt police, that afternoon a truck broke through the Autobahn median; the driver was trying to avoid a collision with a private vehicle in his own lane and lost control of the truck, which crashed through the highway barrier and finally came to a stop, only to block all three lanes of traffic in the Munich direction. It was seconds later that the VW Golf carrying a sleeping Petrović in the passenger seat crashed into the truck, killing only him, and leaving the driver - Klara Szalantzy, a German model and female basketball player with whom Petrović was romantically involved - and Hilal Edebal, a female Turkish basketball player, with grave injuries.[14][20] It was established that visibility on the road was very poor and that Petrović was not wearing a seatbelt.[1]

Monument of Dražen Petrović in Lausanne

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;[21] Ivanišević wore Petrović's Nets jersey amidst the 100,000 strong crowd celebrating his victory in Split.[1] 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.[22]


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" Petrović[10]

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 Drazen. 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[23]

Drazen 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 have to have a lot of respect for him.

—Clyde Drexler[23]

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.

David Stern[24]

It was a thrill to play against Drazen. 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[24]

Accomplishments and awards

Club competitions

Year Competition Achievement Club
1982 Korać Cup Finalist BC Šibenka
1983 Korać Cup Finalist BC Šibenka
1985 European Champions Cup Winner BC Cibona
1985 Yugoslavian Championship Winner BC Cibona
1985 Yugoslavian Cup Winner BC Cibona
1986 European Champions Cup Winner BC Cibona
1986 Yugoslavian Championship Finalist BC Cibona
1986 Yugoslavian Cup Winner BC Cibona
1987 European Cup Winners Cup Winner BC Cibona
1987 Yugoslavian Championship Finalist BC Cibona
1988 Yugoslavian Cup Winner BC Cibona
1988 Korać Cup Finalist BC Cibona
1989 Spanish Cup Winner Real Madrid
1989 Spanish Championship Finalist Real Madrid
1989 European Cup Winners Cup Winner Real Madrid
1990 NBA Playoffs Finalist Portland Trail Blazers
  • YUBA most points scored by an individual in a league game (112)
  • ACB most points scored by an individual in a final series game (42)[5]
  • ACB most 3PT field goals made by an individual in a final series game (8)[5]
  • NBA 1991-92 second highest 3PT field goal percentage (.444)[12]
  • NBA 1991-92 fourth highest field goal percentage among guards (.508)
  • NBA 1992-93 second highest 3PT field goal percentage (.449)[12]
  • NBA 1992-93 second highest field goal percentage among guards (.518)[25]
  • NBA third best career 3PT field goal percentage (.437)[12]

National teams

Year Event Host Placement Country
1980 Balkan Championship for Junior Men Istanbul, Turkey 3rd SFR Yugoslavia
1981 Balkan Championship for Cadets Thessaloniki, Greece 1st SFR Yugoslavia
1982 Balkan Championship for Junior Men Patras, Greece 1st SFR Yugoslavia
1982 European Championship for Junior Men Dimitrovgrad and Haskovo, Bulgaria 2nd SFR Yugoslavia
1983 University Games Edmonton, Canada 2nd SFR Yugoslavia
1984 Balkan Championship Athens, Greece 2nd SFR Yugoslavia
1984 Olympic Games Los Angeles, United States 3rd SFR Yugoslavia
1986 World Championship Madrid, Spain 3rd SFR Yugoslavia
1987 University Games Zagreb, SFR Yugoslavia 1st SFR Yugoslavia
1987 Eurobasket Athens, Greece 3rd SFR Yugoslavia
1988 Olympic Games Seoul, South Korea 2nd SFR Yugoslavia
1989 Eurobasket Zagreb, SFR Yugoslavia 1st SFR Yugoslavia
1990 World Championship Buenos Aires, Argentina 1st SFR Yugoslavia
1992 Olympic Games Barcelona, Spain 2nd Croatia
  • Balkan Championship for Junior Men 1982 Best Player
  • World Championship 1986 MVP[8]
  • European Championship 1989 MVP

The Dražen Petrović Memorial Center

A museum named The Dražen Petrović Memorial Center was founded in his honor, and constitutes a co-operative effort led by the Dražen Petrović Foundation in conjunction with the Croatian government, the city of Zagreb and the Croatian Museum of Sports. The memorial center idea originated from Petrović'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 Dražen Petrović Foundation, which is led by Petrović'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.[26]

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 Plaza Dražen Petrović in his honor.[27]

Some images from the museum:

Drazen Statue6b.jpg Drazen Statue5b.jpg Drazen Statue9b.jpg Drazen Statue8b.jpg

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e Stephen Rodrick, Spirit of the Game, ESPN The Magazine, August 8, 2005
  2. ^, Drazen Petrovic
  3. ^, Drazen Petrovic
  4. ^ a b, Chronology
  5. ^ a b c d, Statistics
  6. ^, Cibona: Moment in time...
  7. ^, Cibona Story
  8. ^ a b, Hall of Fame - Drazen Petrovic
  9. ^ a b c, Real Madrid Story
  10. ^ a b, In Honor of Drazen Petrovic
  11. ^, Blazers Portland Story
  12. ^ a b c d e f, Drazen Petrovic
  13. ^, Best Trades in History: Atlantic Division
  14. ^ a b c Mike Freeman, Details Emerge, but Petrovic's Death Still Baffles, The New York Times, June 9th, 1993
  15. ^, League Leaders: Points - 1992-93
  16. ^, 1993 All-Star Game Boxscore: West 135, East 132 (OT)
  17. ^, Eleventh World Championship
  18. ^, Nets New Jersey Story
  19. ^, Dražen Petrović Stats (Croatian)
  20. ^, Today in History - July 7th (Croatian)
  21. ^ CBS Sports, Ivanisevic honours late NBA star
  22. ^, FIBA Hall of Fame Profile
  23. ^ a b, Memories of Drazen Petrovic
  24. ^ a b, Home Page
  25. ^, 1992-93 NBA Player Register
  26. ^ MIGHTY QUINN - Sports - NY Daily News
  27. ^ Hawkesworth, Celia. (2007). Zagreb: a cultural and literary history, Signal Books, ISBN: 1904955304, 9781904955306, p. 188.

External links


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