With the Sacramento Kings announcing that they will retire Peja Stojakovic’s number 16 December, we spoke with SB Nation basketball journalist and Kings fan Tom Ziller about Peja’s legacy means to people in Sacramento.
BiE: As a Kings fan, what does it mean to see Peja honoured like this?
Tom Ziller: It’s wonderful to see Peja’s accomplishments recognized by the team. He’s one of the three biggest contributors (with Webber and Divac) from the most successful stretch in franchise history. He was a legit MVP candidate one year, Sacramento’s first and only, and a real trendsetter as a tall shooter.
BiE: For those of us in Europe who knew him more for his play internationally, what did Peja mean to Kings fans in the NBA?
Ziller: Peja was the Kings’ assassin all those years the team was a title contender. He had some rough moments, especially when injured during the infamous Lakers series, but was otherwise dependable as an incredible shooter and scorer from the wing. His stroke was glorious and he excelled when Webber missed most of the 2003-04 season.
BiE: Were Peja’s achievements with the Yugoslavia team something Kings fans like yourself took note of at the time?
Ziller: Watching international play outside of the Olympics and Team USA’s FIBA games were difficult, but having two famous Serbians on the team plus other internationals (like Hedo Turkoglu) on the club made FIBA season more of an event. We certainly knew Vlade’s Yugoslav basketball history and did recognize Peja’s contributions.
BiE: When he finally won a ring with the Mavs, how did you feel about it?
Ziller: I was personally happy for Peja. I think most of us wished he’s hit a couple of critical shots in 2002 that would have turned the tide, but alas. I’ve always been happy for Peja in his post-Kings success, both with New Orleans and Dallas.
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