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[NBA.COM] How good was Drazen Petrovic?

Discussion in 'NBA Dish' started by Asian Sensation, Aug 16, 2005.

  1. Asian Sensation

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    Drazen Petrovic: A Legacy of Greatness
    By John Hareas



    Ask any NBA fan and they’ll tell you. They’ll remember the precise moment when they heard the tragic news. When the story broke on a hazy June 7 summer day in 1993 that Drazen Petrovic had died at the age of 28 in an automobile accident on the Autobahn in Germany, it was a moment that left you sad, speechless, and asking countless whys.

    The legacy Petrovic left behind was immense. Not only was he was one of the game’s greatest and most accomplished players but he was also one of the NBA’s premier shooters, even in just four seasons and 290 NBA games. Yet his mark in the NBA was also that of a pioneer. While other international players during the mid-’80s and ’90s such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Detlef Schrempf and Rik Smits all enjoyed varying degrees of success in the NBA, their respective games were all honed at U.S. colleges. Petrovic was the first international player to arrive directly from overseas to make a significant impact in the NBA, serving as inspiration for other players all over the world to follow.

    Such greatness was not surprising to those who saw Petrovic play in his native country of Croatia where he once scored 114 points in a game on 40 of 60 shooting or starred in leading the Yugoslavian Olympic team to a silver medal in the 1988 Olympics.

    "Drazen was one of the greatest players ever," said Rasho Nesterovic, a native of Slovenia and a member of the San Antonio Spurs. "Back home, 90 percent of kids tried to be like him. His hard work inspired a lot of kids."

    Petrovic averaged 37.7 points in four seasons with Cibona Zagreb and was recognized as the Croatian Player of the Year four times, while also earning MVP honors in the 1989 European championships. He was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the third round of the 1986 NBA Draft (60th overall selection) and entered the NBA for the 1989-1990 season.

    Joining the 1989 Western Conference champion Trail Blazers team that featured perennial All-Star guard Clyde Drexler, Petrovic had to adjust to a new role as he found himself averaging just 12.5 minutes and 7.6 points per game.

    The growing pains and adjustments on and off the court in trying to succeed in a new country were shared by another high profile international player who was selected by the Los Angles Lakers with the 26th overall pick in the 1989 Draft.

    "We came to the NBA the same year and we talked on the phone almost every day, trying to encourage each other and trying to survive," said Vlade Divac. "It was tough for him. He knew that he could play, but he didn’t have the chance to show what he could do."

    Statistics aside, Petrovic’s dedication in practice earned the respect of his coaches and teammates. When the Blazers traded the 6-5 guard to the New Jersey Nets in January 1991, Drexler predicted big things for the Croatian native.

    "I’m telling you, this guy will make the East’s All-Star team within two years," said Drexler. "I guarantee it. You’ve never seen a guy shoot like he can, or work as hard."

    Drexler was right. Although Petrovic ultimately was overlooked for such honors, he embraced his fresh start with the Nets and was determined to show the fans in the United States what the supporters back home were missing. The manic approach to practice was turned up yet another notch and his goal of getting stronger resulted in 20 pounds of added muscle.

    The hard work paid off. In Petrovic’s first full season with the Nets, he saw his scoring average jump to 20.6 points per game on .508 percent shooting while logging nearly 37 minutes per game. No longer would he have to take a backseat. Petrovic was fearless on the court, taking on all comers regardless if their last names were Jordan or Miller. Whether it was Croatian or English, intimidation was not in Petrovic’s vocabulary.

    "Drazen had to wait to be successful, but he made it," said Croatian native Dino Radja who played four seasons with the Boston Celtics in the mid-'90s. "He sat two years on the Portland bench, but then he came to New Jersey and he became a star."

    The success only made Petrovic hungrier, laying the groundwork for his greatest NBA season ever when he averaged 22.3 points on .518 percent shooting, including .449 from the three-point line where he would routinely launch rainbow jumpers several feet beyond the 23-foot, 9-inch mark.

    Petrovic had broken through. Although he should have made the All-Star team that season, the media didn’t overlook his accomplishments, voting him to the All-NBA Third Team. Just as his NBA career was taking off, tragedy struck. Less than two weeks after being recognized as one of the top 15 players in the NBA, Petrovic died.

    "We, all of us, were very, very sad at that time because we, the guys from the [Croatian] National Team, feel like family," said NBA veteran Toni Kukoc who was born in Split, Croatia and played alongside Petrovic in the ’88 and 1992 Olympics where they led Yugoslavia to a silver medal. "We spend a lot of time during the summer, we always have our European Championship or Word Championship or Olympic Games. So we spend about three or four months, together every day. We feel like a family. So when you lose someone like Drazen, it was a very hard time."

    Although his life and career ended prematurely, his impact and place in basketball history will continue to live on for generations to come. Not only officially in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame where he was enshrined in 2002 but in the hearts and minds of those fortunate enough to see him play.




    I personally don't remember too much of Drazen because he was slightly before my time but watching some old highlights and hearing about how good he was makes me ponder the question how good was he? and how good could he have become? since he passed before his prime and peak level of play. From what I do remember and his style of play it reminds me a bit of Peja Stojakovic... what do you guys think?
     
  2. steddinotayto

    steddinotayto Contributing Member

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    he's in the hall of fame and rightfully so
     
  3. macfan

    macfan Contributing Member

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    I remember him playing when I was growing up in Europe. I can categorically say he's the best European ever. The guy was a scoring machine, best shooter I've ever seen.
     
  4. kaleidosky

    kaleidosky Your Tweety Bird dance just cost us a run

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    a ridiculous player. if only
     
  5. DaDakota

    DaDakota If you want to know, just ask!

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    He was amazing to watch.......Shooting 50%+......for a 2 guard....WOW !!

    DD
     
  6. jlaw718

    jlaw718 Contributing Member

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    Really good player. His field goal percentages were amazing considering he routinely launched long-range jumpers.

    Freaking sad.
     
  7. 3814

    3814 Contributing Member

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    i watched basketball back then, but never followed players or stats like i do now...how does he compare to:

    reggie miller (in his prime)?
    peja?
    ray allen?
    clyde?

    i know you can't compare exactly due to lack of longevity :)( RIP) but just somewhat of a comparison would be appreciated.
     
  8. madbomber

    madbomber Rox4Life! #FreeJVG

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    prob peja with a better shot.....for real!
     
  9. Dream Sequence

    Dream Sequence Contributing Member

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    really hope sportscentury or someone does a retro on him...too many fans have no idea what they missed.
     
  10. apostolic3

    apostolic3 Member

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    Wow! Those stats are amazing. I don't remember him being that good in the NBA. I do remember hearing the news of his death.
     
  11. slickvik69

    slickvik69 Contributing Member

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    He was a great player, one of the best European NBA players ever. I wish we would've gotten to see Sabonis in his younger days, he was a superstar in the Eastern world.
     
  12. lalala902102001

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    He was just about to have a breakout season in the NBA when he died. Very sad indeed.
     
  13. Dr of Dunk

    Dr of Dunk Clutch Crew

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    He was a hell of a shooter, but there were lots of 48-50% FG shooters back then. Chris Mullin, Sarunas Marchwhateveralonis, Detlef Schrempf, Jordan, etc. No zone helped. He was among the best gunners of the time and really seemed on the verge of greatness, a la Reggie Miller (although I don't remember how clutch Drazen was). He was a very good player, but I don't think it's fair to others to put him in the class of a superstar or legend of sorts.
     
  14. Stack24

    Stack24 Contributing Member

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    Definently a good comparison. He was much better than Peja in my opinion. They would definently be comparing the 2 and seeing which one was better if he was still around and played longer.
     
  15. Francis3422

    Francis3422 Member

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    I remember I was a kid a year or 2 before he died and my friend and I were collecting basketball cards. We did it together and kind of shared the collection until we decided to split it up. We decided we would each pick a card in turns until they were gone. We quickly went throught The Jordans, Johnsons and Birds, but on my fathers advice one of the first cards I picked was a Drazen rookie card. He told me it would be valuable one day and that the guy was the next Larry Bird. Too bad we never got to see exactly what he could do.
     
  16. rezdawg

    rezdawg Contributing Member

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    I remember that I was at a dinner party when the news broke of his death. I remember seeing the pictures of his battered car. It was a horrible moment, I couldnt believe it.
     
  17. Easy

    Easy Boban Only Fan
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    Sabonis is the best European player ever, hands down. Drazen was the rich man's Peja. Considering Peja was flirting with MVP vote a couple of seasons ago, that's saying a lot for Drazen.
     
  18. max14

    max14 Member

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    It's unfair to compare Drazen to Peja. Drazen was a fierce competitor. He's not talented relatively but he worked hard. He was destined to greatness...

    I think the Euro players goes like this

    Sabonis is like Wilt. Wilt with an injury. And frankly he probably was the best center talent since Wilt.

    Drazen is like Jordan. Great competitor and great achievments.

    Kukoc is like Bill Russel. Dude won something like more than 20 league titles, was on the best European and NBA team ever. (OK the best NBA team didn't have that much to do with him)

    And ur.... Dirk is gonna surpass all of 'em.... Which is sad....
     
  19. max14

    max14 Member

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    And as things stand. Sabas is not hands down the best Euro player. I think it goes to Drazen, and eventually Dirk. Eating D-Rob alive in 86 is not really a career achievement.
     
  20. pgabriel

    pgabriel Educated Negro

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    I agree, I think he would have made a few all-star games and probably topped out at 25 points a game, which is a really good NBA player. He was a gunner but I compare him to more like Reggie Theus, if any of you remember his game although Drazen had a better three point shot.
     

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