By George Bakolas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
He is one of the biggest names in the history of European basketball. His accomplishments are impressive and ahead of their time. His life was cut short, 46 years ago today, but Radivoj Korac is alive and well in the hearts of basketball fans, especially of Serbs for who he represents exactly what another tragic loss (and in the same way) does for the Croatians, the ace Drazen Petrovic.
On June 2 there are never any basketball games taking place in Serbia, while a memorial service is sung in the memory of the legend of Yugoslavian basketball.
Low key, an anti-star and not a very… media friendly type, born on the 5th of November 1938, Korac managed to achieve a lot in just the 31 years of his short life before his fatal car accident. It was the 2nd of June 1969 just outside Sarajevo where he had travelled from Belgrade in order to appear in an exhibition game for the promotion of basketball when the Serbian forward, after yet another amazing performance scoring 33 points, he drew his last breath plunging all of Yugoslavia in sadness.
What only a few people know is that the… bibliophile and lover of music and the arts Korac, gave a unique show on Belgian television. In the 1967-68 season, having left OKK Beograd after 13 consecutive years to join Liege, he was invited on national Belgian television. On the show he was asked to shoot 100 free throws (!) on a basket that was in the studio and the presenter had asked him beforehand how many he thought he could score!
“70 or 80,” was Korac’s humble response, which turned out to be… incorrect, since he took the ball and scored all 100 free throws that he attempted (in that characteristic erratic style of his, as if he was throwing a bucket of water), leaving the Belgians stunned!
It is worth noting that from 1972 to 2002 the “Korac Cup” was held in the Old Continent, a name that was essentially given to the Serbian Cup (“Radivoj Korać Cup”) soon after, and that on the 14th of January 1965 Radivoj Korac scored 99 points wearing OKK Beograd’s jersey against Alvik Stockholm in a game for the European Championship Cup (stage of 16). Actually 65 of those points were scored in the second half with just 11/14 free throws and of course without any three-pointers since the three-point line did not yet exist in those years!
He emerged as the top scorer of the Yugoslavian championship seven times and of the Eurobasket three times (1959, 1961, 1963), he won four championships and two Yugoslavian cups, 5 silver medals and one bronze with the national team, while he was named the MVP of the European Cup of 1961.
EXTRA TIP: Two teams in Serbia, one in Banja Luka in Bosnia/Herzegovina and one in Switzerland are named “Radivoj Korac.”