February 18, 2020

Once Brothers – A Story of a Broken Friendship Between Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic

Narrator Vlade Divac, who’s oldest son is now 18, recalls his life when he was the same age. It all began in the mid 80-s after Divac signed a professional contract with Partizan Belgrade and was selected to play on the country’s national team. Divac meets his idol, 4 years older Petrovic, who once scored 112 points in a single game (!) at the team’s training camp. The two become friends, though Vlade was an extrovert, and Drazen a withdrawn fellow always focused on basketball.

Documentary shows success of Yugoslav team in the following years. The team, who’s captain was Drazen Petrovic, won in total 5 medals including two golds.

In the meantime, next big step for two friends is – NBA. In 1989., 7′ 1” feet (2.16 m) tall Divac is chosen by the Lakers in the first round and Petrovic is signed by the Portland Trail Blazers, who had drafted him three years earlier. While cheerful Divac, who barely speaks English at that point, is becoming a new star of Lakers, Petrovic doesn’t get enough time to play in Blazers, although he eagerly wants to prove himself. However, the friendship continues with long phone conversations, almost on daily basis; Divac says they were ‘like brothers’. After two seasons Petrovic is traded to New Jersey Nets where he eventually becomes a star, nicknamed as ‘Petro’.

At that time in multi-ethnical Yugoslavia civil war was escalating. Croatia was attacked by Serbia, and no one could stand aside. So called ‘flag incident’ only made it worse and meant the end of the friendship between Serb Divac and Croat Petrovic. At the 1990 World Championships, after Yugoslavia won a gold medal, Divac threw away Croatian flag, which was carried in basketball court by a supporter. He claimed later, he would’ve done the same if someone carried Serbian flag, but the damage was done and communication between two of them eventually stopped. It was followed by Drazen Petrovic’s tragic death in 1993 in a car accident.

In his attempt to make a closure, Divac visited Drazen’s mother Biserka and brother Aleksandar in Zagreb and paid a tribute to his late friend by visiting his grave.

Although story of the film is focused on two friends, it was interesting to see commentary of some other legendary players, such as Magic Johnson or Kenny Anderson, famous coaches and sport journalists. Toni Kukoc and Dino Radja, two Croatian players who found success in the NBA, also share their views on these events.

As a person who grew up in ex-Yugoslavia, I’ve watched this movie with great interest and mixture of emotions. Sadness, pride, nostalgia… Me and my friends were always looking up to Drazen, he was a national icon – handsome, dedicated and brilliant player. Only a sudden death stopped this ‘Mozart of basketball’ on his way to become one of the biggest NBA star – something that Vlade Divac achieved. On the other hand, most of us in Croatia considered Divac a villain due to a ‘flag accident’.

I’m aware that things in life aren’t simply black or white but I can only hope this documentary will help viewers of both nations to understand each other better and begin to appreciate true human values. I would recommend it to anyone who’s into basketball, or comes from ex-Yugoslavia, or has lost a close friend due to a circumstances. As Vlade Divac said: ‘To build a friendship it takes years, and to destroy it – just one second’.

Source by Hijacinta Svabelj

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