by David Cassilo / @dcassilo
Before there was Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki and Manu Ginobili, there was Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic.
Those two teammates from the Yugoslavian national team paved the way for international players to play in the NBA.
In the upcoming ESPN 30 For 30 documentary entitled Once Brothers, Drazen and Divac’s basketball success, close relationship and the eventual tragic death of Petrovic are all on full display.
Told through the eyes of Divac, the main focus is the relationship between himself and Petrovic. We follow the two players from the rise of their careers in Yugoslavia, to their early success in the NBA, to the war within their home country that tears them apart and to finally, the tragic death of Petrovic.
Mainly, this is Divac’s story about how he deals with all of these things, most particularly the division that comes between him (a Serbian) and all of the Croatians that were once his teammates on the Yugoslavian national team.
Accounts of these events are also provided by Toni Kukoc and Dino Radja, two Croatian born players who found success in the NBA and eventually were forced to end a friendship with Divac because of their homelands.
However, why this one of the best films so far in ESPN’s series is the many different stories it tells within the one documentary.
What makes this a must-see for any NBA fan is that within the main story is the story of how an international player adjusts to the NBA. Divac and his former Yugoslavian teammates express all of the obstacles that are in the way for a foreign-born player, including style of play, language and the lack of belief by others that they could actually cut it in the NBA.
Furthermore, the miraculous and tragic story of Petrovic’s journey is told. If you are unaware of just how good he was and could have been, this documentary is essential. Petrovic was on his way to becoming an NBA star and the impact his death had on both those who knew him and everyone within his home country shows how important he was at the time of his horrific car accident.
The film is also full of former NBA stars who add a lot of insight to the stories of Divac and Petrovic, whether it be glowing accounts of Petrovic from former teammates Clyde Drexler, Kenny Anderson and Derrick Coleman or a highly entertaining sitdown between Divac and Magic Johnson.
Finally, from this documentary you are left with a sense of the type of person Divac is. A fun-loving, big-hearted character who was (and is) a perfect figure to be the face of international basketball.
While Divac might have been accused of a few flops during his NBA career, the documentary Once Brothers is definitely not one of them.
The docu airs on ESPN on October 12.