On this day, 28 years ago, Dražen Petrović, a member of the Croatia basketball team and one of the best Croatian athletes of all time, was killed in a car accident on the motorway near the German city of Ingolstadt.
He was a basketball player and a role model, the Mozart of sports, but tragically died at the age of 29 during the peak of his playing career.
Dražen played his last match against Slovenia in the qualifications for the European Championship in Wroclaw. It was June 5, 1993. The Croatia national team returned from Poland by plane, but Dražen set off in a car with his girlfriend behind the wheel. He has no idea it would be his last drive.
Dražen was born on October 22, 1964, in Šibenik. His love for basketball has been with him since he was a small child. His exceptional perseverance and dedication to daily training with undeniable talent quickly made him one of the best in all age groups.
At the age of sixteen, he joined the Šibenik first team. He brought his hometown to the title of Yugoslav champion in 1983.
Cibona and Real Madrid were unreachable to all European clubs when Dražen played in their ranks. Having achieved everything in Europe, he went to the strongest league in the world – the NBA.
Although he sat more than played for the first season due to politics inside Portland, he showed his phenomenal talent two years later with the New Jersey Nets. Not only was he the team’s best shooter in 1992 (especially at three-pointers), but also the best European to have played in the NBA league so far.
That year, Dražen led the Croatia national team to its greatest success, silver at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, in the final clash with the only real Dream Team played by the best representatives of the NBA and some of the best basketball players in history – Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen, and others.
As a player, he received the Franjo Bučar State Award for Sports in 1992, and posthumously, this time for his life’s work, he received the same award in 2002.
He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.