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Jun
4

Drazen Petrovic: The video homage to a too-short career

Once again on June 7, BallinEurope takes a look back at one of the all-time greats, without whom the game of basketball would not be the same: Dražen Petrović. The man is still missed.

An entire generation has entered basketball since his untimely passing and while ever-growing numbers of NBA and European stars who have never seen him play emerge, all owe a debt to Dražen Petrović.

It was on this day in 1993 that the only man who realistically could have held claim to the sobriquet of “the European Michael Jordan” was killed in a car accident in Germany. As detailed in the excellent ESPN “30 for 30” documentary “Once Brothers,” Petrović was a fearless, proud player with Team Yugoslavia and later Team Croatia in international play; was on the verge of entering the prime of a Hall of Fame-level career with the New Jersey Nets.

Petrovic' grave site, 7 June 2012

For those of you who never saw Petrović play, do yourselves a favor and take some time to watch below. For those of us fortunate enough to remember this European pioneer blazing trails all over the world, it’s a welcome (if slightly meandering) trip down memory lane. We still miss you, Dražen.

History has been unkind to Petrović vis-à-vis his NBA battles with that 1990s uber-phenomenon, i.e. Michael Jordan. Surely many Nets and Chicago Bulls fans remember the battles between these two powers which were mostly, as they say these days, “epic.”

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Jan
3

What every young player needs: Playing time

Even in these days of internationalism, certain constants remain in European basketball vis-à-vis player development. BallinEurope’s Marko Savkovic takes a brief look at the current situation in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, with particular reference to Partizan’s Danilo Andjusic and Nemanja Nedovic of Red Star Belgrade.

Ask any coach what a young player needs to develop, and he will answer: “playing time.” Readiness to open the floor to skinny teenagers in order to gradually turn them into match winners used to be one of defining features of ex-Yu ball. Coaches were not advised only by their instinct. The talent pool was wider and deeper. The league was more competitive. Local teams were built on youth systems and were proud of the talent in store. Due to restrictions, these teenagers were not sold abroad early, while guys with more experience were kept on the roster. What was the end result? When one team that was neither from Belgrade or Zagreb – namely, Jugoplastika Split – achieved its unforgettable threepeat.

Two decades later, things have changed dramatically. There are fewer players to choose from. Many youth systems have collapsed due to lack of funding. Yet, teams still must win in order to attract publicity and sponsorships. In doing this, defense is the key. Points are built on discipline, patience, positioning and calculated aggression: This in turn translates into fewer minutes for the youngsters who must learn fast and impress quickly or leave.

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Dec
9

Peja Stojakovic: The BallinEurope tribute

Just days ago, Peja Stojakovic appeared to be a viable free agent for an NBA team with roster holes, a still-deadly long-range assassin at the age of 34, a 19-year veteran with gas enough in the tank for late-game daggers and smart D, a prototypical European baller with an American championship pedigree. “Couldn’t he drain a few 3s for a contender?” rhetorically asked hoops sage Bill Simmons last Friday.

Alas, it was not to be. The Serbian sharpshooter will not be part of the Dallas Mavericks’ quest to repeat as NBA champions, announcing his retirement from professional basketball late Monday night. Citing injuries to his neck and back, Stojakovic decided his physical struggles were “a wakeup call” for him to leave the game at this point.

On the plus side, Peja has the privilege of going out on top, in 2011 not only topping his seeming long-time personal rivals the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA playoffs, but also finally earning the ring which had eluded him for a dozen seasons ‘Stateside.

Today BallinEurope pays tribute to the gold-medal winning, NBA title having, future FIBA Hall of Fame nod achieving legend in the traditional fashion … let’s go to the ‘Tube!

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Nov
0

Vlade Divac: The BallinEurope/YouTube career retrospective

BallinEurope sends out hearty congratulations to Serbian great Vlade Divac on his nomination for possible entry into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s “Class of 2012.”

While Divac may be known as a famous trivia answer (“Who was traded for Kobe Bryant?”) or by the dreaded “F-word” (i.e. “flopper” as used in – really – this Los Angeles Times blog entry detailing the story of Vlade’s honor), this nomination shows a lifetime of accomplishment on the basketball court. Heck, in the NBA alone, Divac topped 13,000 points, 9000 rebounds, 3000 assists and 1500 blocked shots over 16 seasons. And then there were those “Dream Team” years with Team Yugoslavia and the glorious early days with KK Partizan in the 1980s, highlighted by Korać Cup titles and Divac’s “Mr. Europa” trophy.

Today, BallinEurope pays tribute to a personal favorite on the occasion in the best way possible: With a YouTube-laden rundown of his long and memorable career! Check out Divac’s progress through turns with Partizan Belgrade, the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings, the “Dream Team” Yugoslavian squads, and of course KK Crvena Zvezda during the 1999 NBA player lockout…

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Aug
24

Greatest of all-time: Yugoslavia or Spain?

An interesting exchange of tweets went down last Friday (yes, minus points for untimeliness, but on another job BallinEurope thought deep into the matter all weekend) between HoopsHype/ESPN Deportes writer Jorge Sierra and Team Australia/Milwaukee Bucks big man Andrew Bogut.

Things started innocuously enough, with Sierra plugging a Spanish-language piece he’d written for Deportes: “An article I penned about Pau Gasol’s Spain potentially being the best non-American team ever,” the HoopsHype tweet read.

To which Bogut shot back with, “@hoopshype Yugoslavia of the late 80s might disagree.”

Retorted the ‘Hype: “@AndrewMBogut Gasol has a better record with Spain (2003-2011) than Petrovic with Yugoslavia (1984-1990).

And finally the exchange ended with Bogut’s terse tweeting of “@hoopshype didn’t say Petro. Said teams. Petro, Divac, Kukoc, Radja etc. I know who i’d take…

It’s an interesting debate, particularly for those who remember actually seeing Drazen and the guys play in international competition. (Bogut was four years old in 1988 – November 1988 – and there’s no telling on Sierra. BiE was … well, let’s just say “old enough to have seen Team Yugoslavia.”) In fact, BallinEurope took on a similar subject a while back and decided that the post-communist Team Yugoslavia of 2001-02 captained by aging Vlade Divac was superior to any Spanish side since the decade turned – but that’s just one opinion…

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Jun
4

Has it really been 18 years? Remembering Drazen Petrovic

An entire generation has entered basketball since his untimely passing and while ever-growing numbers of NBA and European stars who have never seen him play emerge, all owe a debt to Dražen Petrović.

It was on this day in 1993 that the only man who realistically could have held claim to the sobriquet of “the European Michael Jordan” was killed in a car accident in Germany. As detailed most recently in the excellent ESPN “30 for 30” documentary “Once Brothers,” Petrović was a fearless, proud player with Team Yugoslavia and later Team Croatia in international play; was on the verge of entering the prime of a Hall of Fame-level career with the New Jersey Nets.

For those of you who never saw Petrović play, do yourselves a favor and take some time to watch below. For those of us fortunate enough to remember this European pioneer blazing trails all over the world, it’s a welcome (if slightly meandering) trip down memory lane. We still miss you, Dražen.

Continue Reading…

Feb
4

And the Oscar (Robertson) goes to: Basketball Movies in 2010

So the envelopes have been opened and the celebratory parties in Tinseltown have yet to truly begin as Hollywood’s version of the NBA All-Star Weekend draws to a close. BallinEurope spent most of the weekend flipping between the ACB, NBA, “Black Swan” and “The Kids are All Right,” and is thus in perfect mindset to present the 2011 Oscar (Robertson) awards for cinematic basketball excellence.

Wait, did BiE say “cinematic”? That particular adjective may be slightly inaccurate for the films of 2010, especially considering the key noun “excellence” is also involved: In terms of basketball movies, the good news/bad news summation for last year’s roundball cinema subgenre informs that, while the volume of full-length features, documentaries and short videos was up in 2010, a single force dominated in terms of quality. And that force was ESPN. And last year’s best basketball films were, simply put, all on TV.

First, the field in the race for the “Best Dramatic Full-Length Feature” Oscar (Robertson).

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Feb
0

Vlade Divac’s All-Star Weekend in Hungary

So how did Vlade Divac spend his All-Star weekend? By hanging out with former Bull/Cavalier/Raptor/Gran Canaria/Tau Ceramica big man Kornél Dávid plus a buncha players from Hungary and old Yugoslavia!

As a prelude to the Hungarian National League all-star game between locals and foreign-born players, the country’s sole NBA product was reunited with his fellow members of the 1999 Team Hungary, which still represents the country’s last Eurobasket Final 16 appearance since 1969. Of the 10 to suit up for the Hungarian team against the former Laker/Hornet/King, five are still active in professional ball.

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Oct
12

See “Once Brothers” here (while you can)

For those of you who may have missed the fantastic ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Once Brothers” – and this wouldn’t be surprising with the ungodly scheduling of the thing on ESPN America in European time – BallinEurope presents it in its entirety below.

If you have not seen this, please check it out; the “30 for 30” series has cranked out a number of great films, including several basketball-themed products such as “Winning Time” and “Jordan Rides the Bus,” but the stunning story of friendship and loss of friendship among the awesome Team Yugoslavia squads of the late 1980s/early 90s is truly one of the best thus far – and certainly tops for an international audience.

This is courtesy YouTube user Captain Canada for posting these clips; in the past, someone has removed these videos within days after posting – BiE supposes its their right and all, but still… – so enjoy it while you can!

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Oct
7

Interview: Michael Tolajian, director of “Once Brothers”

Tomorrow night will see the ESPN premiere of the latest in its “30 for 30” documentary series, “Once Brothers.” This film focuses on the Yugoslavian basketball squads of 1988-1991, dream teams that included rosters filled with names such as Vlade Divac, Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja, Predrag Danilović, Stojan Vranković, and Jure Zdovc.

When the former Yugoslavia fell into chaos in a bloody civil war, team cornerstones Divac and Petrovic stopped talking, their close friendship instantly shattered in a moment of time in which Divac’s motivations were misunderstood. Despite the fact that they had entered the history books together as FIBA World Champions and again as the first two Yugoslavians to play in the NBA, they would never exchange a word again.

Petrovic was killed in a car accident following the 1992-93 and until the filming of “Once Brothers,” Divac and the other Team Yugoslavia players had never dealt with the demons of war that still affected their lives nearly two decades on.

A joint effort of ESPN and NBA Entertainment, Michael Tolajian was chosen to run the show in this director-centric series. Tolajian first came to NBA Entertainment straight out of college in 1989, “back when there was maybe 30 people working there,” he says. And while Tolajian has since formed his own production company in Los Angeles and has had a hand in many projects, including the “World Series of Poker” TV program since 2006, he always seems to come back to basketball.

Maybe most notably, Tolajian produced the 2000 documentary “Whatever Happened to Michael Ray?” for NBA Entertainment, a fantastic (and cameo-packed) look at the rise and fall of late 1970s/early 80s superstar “Sugar Ray” Richardson narrated with gusto by Chris Rock. His “I Am A Celtic” is a look at the 2006-07 Boston Three Party as seen through the eyes of legends Sam Jones, John Havlicek and Bob Cousy.

Tolajian talked with BallinEurope about “Once Brothers,” a highly personal story that encompasses much of the human experience itself – as well as present some fantastic international basketball history.

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