Many consider Drazen Petrovic the best European player ever to play in the NBA. Some claim Peja Stojakovic was better, however if Petro was still alive and playing, he would have been better than Stojakovic.
A star on multiple stages, Petrovic 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 six European Player of the Year awards (four Euroscar Awards, and was named Mr. Europa in basketball twice). In 1985 he received the Golden Badge award for best athlete of Yugoslavia.
Seeking a bigger arena after his career start in Europe, Petrovic joined the National Basketball Association in 1989 as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Petrovic started off the bench for the Trailblazers, averaging 7.6 points per game. His fame came later, when he was traded to the struggling New Jersey Nets team.
Petrovic spent three seasons with the Nets, averaging double figures in scoring in each of those 3 seasons.
In 91-92, Petrovic played all 82 games with the Nets, averaging 20.6 ppg (50 percent shooting FG), and coming off with an even better next season, averaging 22.3 ppg.
In the summer of 1993, after his best NBA season and the Nets’ first-round elimination by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Petrovic 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.
Petrovic died in a traffic accident on June 7, 1993, four and a half months before his 29th birthday. On the rain-drenched Autobahn 9, he was a passenger in a car that was cut off by a semi truck at Denkendorf, near Ingolstadt, in the German state of Bavaria.
Petrovic’s #3 was retired by the Nets in 1993 and in 2002, he was posthumously enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Below is a 50-minute video tribute to Drazen Petrovic, made by the Vintage NBA. Check it out.
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