Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Drazen Petrovic: Basketball Hero

The basketball craze has been felt not only in the United States but also in other countries around the world. The popularity of basketball, in no small measure, is due to the National Basketball Association which is considered to be the premier basketball league. It is generally accepted that American and foreign import players in the NBA have shaped the past, present, and future of basketball as an international sport. The grace, athleticism, and extraordinary skills of NBA players have become standards that millions of die-hard basketball players and fans try to passionately emulate.

Like Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, players like Yao Ming, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, and Steve Nash have also become household names. Specifically, Olajuwon, Duncan, Nowitzki, and Nash are among the first non-American players who have won a Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. Before these noted players took the limelight, Drazen Petrovic stole the show from many American basketball players. Many sports analysts and experts credit Petrovic for making the way for other international players to prosper in the NBA.

Drazen Petrovic was a Croatian basketball player who was considered by many as the pioneer in the migration of European and other international players in the NBA. He was a prolific scorer and shooter and arguably one of the most celebrated ball players to come from Europe. Petrovic was one a kind. His European competitions personal bests include single games of 112 and 62 points. Petrovic was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers and went on to end his career with New Jersey Nets. In the NBA, he is considered to be one of the best shooters ever to play the game. In the 1992-93 season, he averaged 22.3 points (11th best that season), 45 percent three-point field goal percentage, and 52 percent two-point field goal percentage (best among guards at that time). These statistics placed him in the All-NBA third team.

In 1993, the Nets were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. After the loss, Petrovic expressed his plans of accepting a two-year offer to play professional basketball in Greece. He left for Europe to rejoin the Croatian national team in a European Cup competition. After scoring 30 points in a qualifying tournament in Poland, it was reported that Petrovic went to Germany. On June 7, 1993, he was off to Munich when the car he rode slammed into a tractor-trailer, killing him and leaving the driver and another companion with grave injuries. News reports said he was with Hilal Haene, a female Turkish basketball player and Klara Szalantzy, a German model and Petrovic’s girlfriend. Petrovic died at the young age of 28.

The loss particularly stunned European basketball fans. "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." his brother Aleksandar Pertovic told the New York Daily News. Late in 1993 the Nets retired Petrovic's uniform No. 3 in tribute. His death was loss not only to his family and fellow Europeans, but to the sport of basketball as well.


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