Some exciting news for folks in Zagreb from the English-language section of the news portal Croatia Week: Basketball fans in the big city may be treated to a unique Brooklyn Nets-Cibona Zagreb exhibition match in October in observation of the 20th anniversary of the death of all-time great Drazen Petrovic.
The 1992 Olympic Games, the Games of the XXV Olympiad: The first to be held without mass boycotts and, by many estimation, the greatest Olympics ever in presentation, hosting, and competition. It was the Games of Hungarian swimmer Krisztina Egerszegi, of Belorussian/Unified Team member Vitaly Scherbo in gymnastics, of the Russian men’s swimming team, of Cuban baseball – but most of all it was basketball that took center stage on the worldwide court in Barcelona.
On this day in 1992, the Dream Team, Team Croatia and Team Lithuania played in their first-ever Olympic basketball games. In memory of these fantastic, historically significant squads, BallinEurope presents some highlight clips from the ’92 Games.
Day one of 1992 Olympic basketball saw the tournament’s powers take care of business: tie-dyed Lithuania handled China, 112-75; Croatia bested Brazil, 93-76; and the stripped-down CIS/USSR side got past Venezuela, 78-64. Of course, the game the world was watching that day would be the biggest laugher of the entire competition: The Dream Team’s infamous 116-48 decimation of Angola.
All right, so it wasn’t exactly twenty years ago today per se, but the current Argentina-Spain-US tournament playing these days brought to mind some of the warmup games in 1992 – at that time, all the Dream Teams kept us enthralled as we imagined the upcoming clashes in Barcelona.
• The Dream Team’s first appearance had them opening the Tournament of the Americas in Portland, an Olympic qualifying round (giggle), against Cuba. Team USA ultimately went 6-0 in the tourney, rolling over opponents by an average score of 121-70; it all began with a 136-57 victory over Cuba which ultimately elicited the old Cuban adage “You can’t cover the sun with your finger” from head coach Miguel Calderon Gomez.
Drazen Petrovic: The name is always mentioned in any discussion of all-time greatest European player, his effect inestimable, his ultimate greatness unknowable. BallinEurope has waxed poetic on the Basketball Mozart innumerable times already, but must say that lost in the general hoopla of the Dream Team in 1992 was the fact that one of the world’s top three or four players at that time (BiE’d put him with Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen) wasn’t on Team USA.
Following a year which saw the dissolution of his Team Yugoslavia and the finalization of his demanded trade to the New Jersey Nets, Petrovic’s brilliant 1991-92 season earned him a deserved reputation among the NBA elites. The stats say the Croat led the Nets in points (20.6 per game), shooting percentage (50.8%), three-point percentage (44.4%) and minutes played (36.9 per game with appearances in all 82 games), but they just called him team MVP.
Along with Derrick Coleman, Petrovic helped the Nets to a 14-win increase over 1990-91 and the playoffs, racking up some amazing individual performances such as the 29 he dropped on the Boston Celtics early in that season…
When basketball fans look back on the 1992 Olympic Games, the top three topics are the awesomeness of the Dream Team, the success of Lithuania playing its first Olympic hoops as an independent nation, and the success of Croatia playing its first Olympic hoops as an independent nation.
Fair enough, BiE supposes, but what about those other NBA-level and/or Euroleague-dominating players in the Barcelona tournament? And what about the historical story surrounding Europe’s other three teams in those ‘Games? Herewith, a European Dream Team of sorts for the ‘92 Olympics plus a tiny bit of backstory and lotsa highlight clips.
As host nation, Team Spain received an automatic bid to the Barcelona Games. Though no slouches in Olympic play – Los Rojos had earned a spot in five of the six previous tournaments, including a silver-medal finish in the Soviet boycott Games of 1984 – history shows that more important in the bigger picture was that 12-year-olds such as Juan Carlos Navarro and Pau Gasol were watching and gaining inspiration.
Spain finished in ninth place after going 1-4 in group play (including a 122-81 drubbing at the hands of the Dreams) and were led in ’92 by long-time national team stars Jordi Villacampa…
A good portion of this epic-by-today’s-standard is devoted to possible trade destinations for the Team Britain big man — even though Smith believes Deng’s recent musings on getting dealt. Most intriguing is a proposition swapping Deng to the Houston Rockets for Kyle Lowry, thereby freeing up Goran Dragic to start there and creating one wicked backcourt in Chicago.
Smith then switches gears and drops a bit of trivia. To wit: Which players have played 10 seasons in European professional basketball and at least three in the NBA? Smith’s got:
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.
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.”
Navarro knows: 10th finals matchup of Real vs. Barca
With just hours to go before the Liga Endesa championship series pitting FC Barcelona against Real Madrid in what they just had to call “El Clásico,” Spain-based Blog de Basket today takes a look at some of the great matchups for all the Spanish marbles these two have had over the years; the 2012 confrontation will mark the 10th between the two with Barca holding the slight 5-4 advantage.
Extrapolation from the Blog piece – plus lots of YouTubes, natch – follow.
These battles started in 1984, in a series ending in forfeit. After Barcelona’s Mike Davis tangled with Real’s Juanma Iturriaga and Fernando Martin resulting in an on-court altercation, league officials handed out suspensions. Iturriaga was given a reprimand only, while Davis, arguably the victim in the scuffle, received the longest suspension. Barca players were a no-show for game three in protest.
In Serbia, it’s Korac Cup time, leading BallinEurope’s Marko Savkovic to contemplate changes in European basketball since the days of Milos Vujanic; specifically, new expertise on defense and subsequent de-emphasis of raining three-pointers. Savkovic tells us who to seek out in the 2012 tourney in terms of long-ball shooting while name-dropping Drazen Petrovic, Magic Johnson and Dejan Bodiroga along the way…
Bearing in mind the multitude of players from the former Yugoslavia who became known for their shooting skills, this seems hard to believe. Some ten years ago, players like Milos Vujanic – voted by fans onto the Euroleague All-Decade Team – were famous for their ability to teardrop three-pointers in succession. Today, the team he used to play for and the Cup’s strongest contender – Partizan – favors a radically different game. So what has changed?