This article is from October of 2019, just a month before we were in Zagreb. Had our tight schedule permitted, I’d have suggested we stop by the museum.
The music video Dražen – za sva vrimena (Dražen – for all time) was presented at a ceremony at the Dražen Petrović Musem – Memorial Centre in Zagreb where it was also announced that a musical dedicated to the legend will premiere next year.
Following is an excellent appreciation of Dražen Petrović. When Petrović went to the NBA, it was just before the horrific Yugoslav civil war, and it’s fair to say that all of eastern-central Europe knew who he was, and enjoyed seeing his success in America. Certainly he was known and respected in Slovakia, where I taught in 1991-1992.
The fact of his symbolic role in the fratricide (he “chose” Croatia in spite of his father being from Serbia) gives me pause, because Yugoslavia’s disintegration is a fiendishly difficult topic that cannot be blamed on a relatively small number of war criminals. There were too few heroes in the conflict.
And yet quite obviously, Petrović didn’t start the war. Those seeds were planted decades before his birth, and what’s more, his premature death at only 28 precludes us from knowing how he’d have chosen to be part of the postwar recovery.
What I continue to appreciate about basketball in general terms, and the NBA in particular, is the way it has become a truly international sport. That opening wave of European players 30-odd years ago transfixed this Europhile. I can’t say Petrović was my favorite player then — that’d be Arvydas Sabonis, the best passer for a big man ever — but I definitely was a fan.
Drazen’s Keepers, by Jeff Greer (Medium)
… It is these people, Croatians from all walks of life, who make up Drazen’s Keepers, those who carry on his transcendent legacy in a country still hurting from the shocking car crash that killed Petrovic in his prime 27 years ago. One of the most accomplished players in European basketball history, Drazen was the first European named to an All-NBA team, a pioneer in crossing the Atlantic to play on the biggest stage in hoops. He remains even bigger than that to his compatriots: a projection of what Croatians want athletically, culturally and morally in their ideal heroes. Visiting his tomb in Zagreb and the statues and museums dedicated to him across the country has become a rite of passage. He is immortalized through the stories Croatians tell. And Drazen’s Keepers pass on his memory — a memory that often drifts between past and present as if their hero never really died at all — so the newest generations of Croatians understand just who Drazen was, and why he is still so important to their young nation.