Mozart of Basketball: Remembering Dražen Petrović 25 Years On

Daniela Rogulj

Today we remember the ‘Mozart of basketball’ Dražen Petrović who left us 25 years ago. 

It’s been 25 years since Dražen left us after a fatal car accident took his life in Denkendorf, Germany on June 7, 1993, reports Vecernji List on June 7, 2018. 

Dražen was in the car with two others – his girlfriend at the time, Klara Szalanty, who was behind the wheel, and Hilal Edebal, at that time a talented 23-year-old basketball player who suffered memory loss from the accident.

The two picked Dražen up from the airport in Frankfurt after he was with the national team for European Championship qualifications. While the rest of the group continued on a plane to Zagreb, Dražen decided to drive with his girlfriend back to Croatia. At around 17:30 that day, the VW Golf driving a sleeping Dražen in the passenger seat was cut off by a semi truck, forcing the Golf to crash into the truck. Dražen did not survive the collision, while Szalanty and Edebal did. Szalanty’s vehicle was said to be driving well over the appropriate speed, and visibility at the time was very poor. 

Dražen started his career at the age of 15 in Šibenik after which he moved to Cibona in 1984. With Cibona he won two European championship titles, the Cup Winners’ Cup, a Yugoslav champion title and celebrated three cups of the former state. After Cibona he left for Real Madrid, where he won the Spanish Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

However, his fate to join the strongest basketball league of the world finally came in 1989, although he was elected in 1986 as the 60th draft pick of the Portland Trailblazers, with whom he was Conference Champions. He then went on to New Jersey, where he was elected to the All-NBA Third Team in the 1992/93 season. 

His life then suddenly came to an end, and with him, Croatian basketball. 

“I’m sure he would have ended his playing career at that moment when he felt that he was losing power and couldn’t be at the level he was in the previous season. I would exclude the possibility of him being a coach because he would never have been. Everything else would be an option, but in a position where he would not be under great stress. After all, it should be said that his love for Šibenik was enormous and that he might have acted locally in a club like Šibenik. He had many friends in Šibenik and was tied to the city. He could not wait for his season to end and to begin working and preparing for the next season at Solaris,” said Dražen’s older brother, Aleksandar Petrović.

In the spring of 1993, Dražen was disappointed in the NBA and began thinking about returning to Europe. 

“He was frustrated because they did not choose him for the All-Star game, and he needed the confirmation that he had succeeded in that world. Although he was on the verge of his first major contract, he began to open the door of Europe, and Stojko Vranković called about his Panathinaikos and his desire to play together once and for all. When all of his private stuff came into the hands of the family, I found a paper in his wallet with the names of four clubs, namely New Jersey, New York, Houston, and Panathinaikos.”

It is astonishing to see all that Dražen’s mother has done to make his legacy as rich as possible. 

“Maybe some are irritated by my mother’s continuous appearances in the media, but if it weren’t for her battles, there would never have been Dražen’s museum. Ten years later, the Museum justifies its existence. Let’s just say, as Zagreb becomes an increasingly sought-after tourist destination, there is almost no older Spaniard that comes to Zagreb without visiting this museum.”


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment