Twenty-Seven Lessons from Dražen Petrović: A Legacy That Lives On

27 years ago, the world of basketball lost a legend. Dražen Petrović, one of the finest European basketball players of all time, was tragically killed. Yet, even today, his story continues to be told. The memory of Dražen Petrović remains vivid, and his life serves as a source of inspiration for many. In the brief span of 28 years, he left behind a wealth of wisdom that still resonates.

The lessons he imparted during his time on this Earth should be cherished, not just by those fortunate enough to have witnessed his brilliance firsthand, but also by the generations that have come since. Twenty-seven years have passed since his untimely departure, and in honor of his enduring legacy, we’ve compiled a list of 27 invaluable lessons that Dražen Petrović has taught us. These lessons serve as a testament to the enduring impact of a remarkable life cut short, a life that continues to inspire and guide us.

About self-confidence

“Thirty minutes in the game and there won’t be an NBA team to whom I won’t put in twenty points.”

About reality

“No one has ever won all games. The sooner you realize that the easier it will get.”

About diligence 

“I’ve had respect for talent until I was 16. After that, I inclined to go along with hard work.” 

About craziness

“If I didn’t make it to basketball practice, I would get ill immediately.” 

About passion 

“When I stand in one place, I deteriorate. It’s hard to describe it to someone who doesn’t know the feeling of being alone with a ball on a basketball court.”

About himself 

“If I weren’t a basketball player, I would be much more withdrawn. I used to be much more reserved. Even now, when the game ends, I don’t like to be in a crowd.”

About Sibenik

“If it’s true that the first love is never forgotten, then Sibenik stayed with me since the first day. It all began there, although I have often pushed the emotions on the side. Actually, I have never had enough time. Sibenik determined my career and showed me the way. I hope it will understand. I have to move on for what I want in basketball. I have to close one circle to open another one. 

About persistence 

“Six or seven in the morning, it didn’t matter. I would take the key in the evening, open the doors of the practice gym, and train. The cleaning ladies and me. I would do my job and they would do theirs. I have never missed out on my morning practice. Never. I get the ball, put the ball through a hoop 500 times or more. I set up chairs and dribble. I do it for hours. And I enjoy it.”

About his brother 

If Aco played football, I would too. If he played water polo, I would too.” 

About his rivals 

“When you go out onto the floor, it’s important that you don’t back down for anyone. The players do everything they can to distract one another. If you back down and don’t retaliate, they will succeed. I fight back automatically, and they don’t like that.”

About balance

“I cannot play if I’m not at the edge of an incident, but I will never make an incident.” 

About his mother 

“Why are you surprised that she’s present at every game? Shouldn’t mothers be near their children? She is our rock that takes on and bounces back the biggest problems.”

About money 

“Those who solve their existential issues before accomplishing anything in life often fare badly in the end.”

About Cibona

“Everyone wanted me, the entire league. But from the first day, only Cibona existed.”

About mercilessness: He scored 56 points in his first game against his Sibenka 

“No, it’s not difficult for me. Memories are memories. Love is love, but on the court, I don’t know anyone. I will score again if the occasion ever presents itself.”

About the ball 

“A basketball, man. It’s always in my car. Whenever I feel like it, I go to a practice gym and shoot 100, 200, or 500 times.”

About responsibility 

“This is a job where you have no right to have a bad day. I feel the responsibility to my fans more than anything else. I play for them, and at the same time for the club and myself.” 

About the power of repetition 

“We have to repeat the European championship title. That’s the only way big teams and big winners are remembered.” 

About future 

“I will enter the NBA when I’m 24 or 25, in my prime. If my health serves me, I will play until I’m 35. Then I would open a law firm.” 

About defeats

“That’s beyond your control. Why would I be upset? You have to accept that you will not win all games, the sooner, the better. Crying over a defeat, no matter how painful it is, will only slow down your career. If you know you did everything you could to win the game, the best thing is – to forget. Forget immediately.” 

About the NBA

“I’m really drawn to America. I like the kind of basketball that is played there. There’s no faking. A man against the other man, one-on-one. If I can score 40 shots in every game, that’s not the real thing. It’s not what I want.” 

About strength

“In my first days of practice in Portland, I played against Clyde Drexler. I couldn’t get by. I would score one or two shots, and he would score 20. I was wondering what I was doing there, and whether I made a mistake when I left Europe. And then I realized. Without strength, you are a mere cipher. You don’t have time to even think about shooting, they’re already all over your hand, your shoulder, your back. If I had worked in Sibenka or Cibona as much as I have worked since I came to the NBA, I’d be a better player by at least 30 percent.”

About the Americans 

“They are great, they are excellent, but they’re not supermen.” 

About the Europeans 

“If I learned anything in the NBA, I learned to hold my own. No one’s going to push me around. I have a first and last name. I’m not just some passer-by. I know that some people don’t like this, but they have to understand, no matter how miserable it makes them. There’s room for Europeans, and not only in episodic roles.”

About the national team 

“I’m looking forward to the national basketball team. To be completely honest, not the practice that much, but meeting my friends, teammates, and playing for Croatia again. New uniforms, the Croatian coat of arms, our national anthem, everything seemed so unreal to me. I cannot explain it. I’ve played all kinds of games so far, even the NBA finals, but this is a special feeling.”  

About modesty 

“Everyone is a basketball captain here. Take a look at these players: Kukoc, Radja, Stojko… What do they need a captain for? For me, being a captain only means being a role model in every moment and in all respects. On the highest level at all times.”

About his greatest love

“Basketball is my life. I’ll never stop loving basketball.” 

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