By Lefteris Moutis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Exactly 22 years after the death of Drazen Petrovic, Eurohoops.net presents an exclusive excerpt from the book about his life titled Drazen: “Drazen – The Years of the Dragon”, which was just published in the home country of the great Croatian basketball player.
This particular chapter from the book Drazen: Godine Zmaja, describes the effort of the young Drazen Petrovic and the star-studded Yugoslavian team to win the 1987 Eurobasket in Athens.
Twelve years after his tragic death the whole basketball world still remembers fondly the sport’s ‘Mozart’.
Enjoy and remember:
When Galis beat Drazen in the Eurobasket of 1987
1987 European Championship, Greece – The world of the young for a world of peace and friendship
Besides a completely new line-up of basketball stars in the Yugoslavian and Soviet teams, the 1980s brought forth another very important trend at the top level of European basketball.
Thanks to Americanized methods, the western European teams, led by Italy and Spain, started competing at the same level for the top position of the continental basketball ranking. So with wins against Yugoslavia and Spain, Italy won the European Championship in Spain in 1983. However, in Los Angeles, despite predictions by many experts, the European champions didn’t succeed in achieving their goal – they lost against Yugoslavia, and Spain was the team to go past the Yugoslavian team and reach the legendary final against the USA led by Michael Jordan.
Despite the return of Soviet Union and Yugoslavia amongst the top teams in 1986, Italy and Spain became the teams that played at the same level against any one of the stronger teams in the world. Greece, the host of the 1987 Eurobasket, delivered a lesson to European basketball when they left an indelible mark on basketball history with style when everyone least expected it at the continental tournament.
Before the beginning of the European Championship in Athens, it seemed as if there were no other alternatives for the top of the podium except for the ever-stronger Yugoslavian and Soviet teams. Both traditional rivals experienced significant changes in their rosters, with an especially strong tendency for rejuvenation. The USSR came to the city at the foot of the Acropolis without the most dominant European player, Arvydas Sabonis, who was to be largely replaced by the revitalized giant Vladimir Tkachenko. The priority on Colonel Gomelsky’s agenda was to use the competition to test the quality of the young Lithuanian ace, Šarunas Marčiulionis.
The corpulent defender for Statiba from Vilnius, the 23-year-old with NBA characteristics, also brushed up his skills during many American tours with the Russian national team. Although the former coach, Obukhov, wasn’t his greatest fan, with his performances in the European Championships in Greece in the “Peace and Friendship” arena, he thrilled all those present, and became a true ace up “Colonel” Gomelsky’s sleeve, by shooting an average of 17.9 points.
Ćosić’s team was also a great enigma for the somewhat modified and relatively unknown Russian team. The playmakers Dražen Petrović and Zoran Čutura, along with the already present Divac, Vranković, and Paspalj, were joined by the future junior world champions, Kukoč, Rađa, and Đorđević.
The “Blue Team” and the USSR faced each another on their initial meeting in the European Championship. The mutual testing of strengths was especially obvious during the first half when the “Blues” scored just 16 points in the first thirteen minutes, and a total of 25 points in the remaining seven minutes. Due to Ćosić’s desire to introduce the young players to the international basketball scene, Dražen didn’t step on the court until the second half, when he got a total of 24 points. After losing 100-93, which happened because of the pale 38% shot efficacy of Ćosić’s team, the “Blues” coach was the target of criticism from the Yugoslavian basketball public. It wasn’t difficult to see that the measuring of the strength of the traditional rivals would have had a different result if Ćosić had depended more on the tried and true team led by the unstoppable Dražen Petrović.
But the real alarm amongst the “Blues” was sounded after the 78-84 loss from the Greek hosts, where the small but incredibly explosive defensive shooter Nikos Galis got a total of 44 points! So the player that “Colonel” Gomelsky called “the player of the 21st century,” guarded by the Petrović brothers and Radović, equalled the number of points he achieved in the game against Romania.
Despite the predictions that the “Greek tragedy” definitely wouldn’t repeat itself in the semifinals of the tournament, the “Blues” once again had to admit defeat from the hosts led by the once again phenomenal Galis (30 points).
Photos by Radisa Mladenovic.
Here is the presentation of the book and a small abstract that was published few days ago.
Here is what Aleksandar Petrovic narrated to Eurohoops.net about his brother.