Dražen Petrović - the Mozart of basketball

Šibenik, a city nestled in a picturesque bay fed by the Krka river on the central Adriatic coast, is known for its outstanding natural beauty and many cultural and historical sights. The city is home to two monuments on the UNESCO Cultural World Heritage List, the Cathedral of St. James and St. Nicholas’ Fortress, and it is also the hometown of Dražen Petrović, one of the greatest Croatian and world basketball players ever. 

Dražen Petrović, known as the “Croatian Mozart” because of his exceptional sportsmanship, started his career in Šibenik. He continued at Cibona, Real Madrid, and in two NBA clubs, the  Portland Trail Blazers and the New Jersey Nets. His status as one of the league’s elite shooters and reputation as a steadfast fighter on the court helped open the NBA’s doors to other European players. Petrović also had a successful national team career, first on the team of the former Yugoslavia and later as captain for Croatia, which he led to a silver medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Known as a skilled shooter, it was not unusual for him to score 40, 50, or even 60 points during a single game. His meteoric basketball career and overwhelming charisma were cut short by a fatal traffic accident in 1993.  

To this day, the legacy of Dražen Petrović in Croatia is immense. A lively interest in his character and work expresses itself in various books, theatre plays, movies, sculptural works. In Šibenik, in the part of the city called Baldekin, next to the sports hall where Dražen Petrović took his first basketball steps, a monument has been erected that shows him sitting on a bench with a basketball between his legs. It attracts visitors from all over the world. In Zagreb, the Museum and Memorial Centre Dražen Petrović opened in 2006 after a joint effort led by the Dražen Petrović Foundation in collaboration with the Croatian government, the City of Zagreb, and the Croatian Sports Museum. In 2023, the filming of the feature-length film Something Stronger Than Me – the Story of Dražen Petrović began. The premier is expected in 2024, on what would have been Dražen Petrović’ 60th birthday.  

Šibenik, where Dražen Petrović played for his first club, Šibenka, is also often called “The City of Children” because the famous International Children’s Festival has been held here for almost 60 years. Interestingly, at the 63rd edition of the International Children’s Festival in July 2023, the festival closed with the premiere of the play Dražen, which depicts the basketball star’s life as a teenager. The play speaks in an inspiring way about the incredible will and dedicated work of a boy who reached the top of world basketball because of his persistence and the astonishing work ethic for which he was known. He said, “I had respect for talent until I was 16. After that, I was inclined to go along with hard work.” 

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