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Home - Drazen Petrovic

  Drazen Petrovic

drazen petrovicDražen 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. Petrović joined the National Basketball Association in 1989, becoming a member of the Portland Trail Blazers and playing mostly off the bench. However, after a trade to the New Jersey Nets, Petrović experienced a break-out, starting for the team and becoming one of the league's best shooters. His life and career were cut short when he was killed in an automobile accident in Germany on June 7, 1993.

Petrović is considered the crucial part of the vanguard to the present-day mass influx of European players into the NBA. 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.

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.

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. 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 basketball player with whom Petrović 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 Petrović was not wearing a seatbelt.
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; 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.

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