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Drazen Petrovic Again Cited as Inspiration for NBA Players

As Luka Doncic and Dzanan Musa enter the NBA, the former Trail Blazers and Nets guard comes to prominence once more.

Trail Blazers Photo by Ken Levine/Getty Images

The legacy of former Portland Trail Blazers and New Jersey Nets guard Drazen Petrovic, a native of former Yugoslavia who pioneered a path to the NBA, continues to shine. Luka Doncic and Dzanan Musa, hailing from the same region as Petrovic, will enter the NBA this season. As Ben Golliver of relays, the former superstar provides inspiration for both rookies.

The report comes in the context of a new NBA Digital Players Only Film, Something in the Water, which follows the two young draftees and recalls their predecessors. Golliver quotes a Serbian official in the film explaining how players from the region have developed a reputation for quality play:

“Military steel-like discipline,” Serbian basketball executive Nebojsa Covic says in the film. “Democracy is for some other professions.”

That obsessive approach, and the infrastructure that supports it at the youth levels, helps explain the former Yugoslavia’s ability to churn out NBA talent. According to the film, the region produces NBA players at a per-capita rate 11 times greater than the rest of Europe.

The memory of Petrovic rises throughout the film and Golliver’s article. The recollection of a monument to Petrovic in his hometown provides a poignant example.

Something in the Water returns repeatedly to a monument of Petrovic in his hometown of Sibenik, which shows the former great as a young man, seated on the bench with the ball at his feet and his eyes on the court—a metallic symbol of the single-mindedness that inspired the growing generation that’s followed him.

“That statue says it all,” Musa said. “His head is to the floor and he’s thinking. People say that’s how he was every day. He’d see the court and think about how he can develop that day. He was a natural, he was so full of emotions. When he scored a basket, it was like he scored a goal. He had so much love for basketball. He’s a hero. That’s the only word.”

Petrovic played in the NBA for four seasons with the Trail Blazers and Nets before his tragic death in an automobile accident at the age of 28. He would have turned 54 this October.