Sunday, October 10th, 2010 at 4:00 pm  |  21 responses

Movie Review: Once Brothers

A 30 For 30 worth watching.

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. D073882130.jpg

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.

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  • http://www.slamonline.com James the Balla

    I am excited to see this. Can’t wait.

  • http://slamonline.com The Black Rick Kamla

    definitely gonna peep this…..lol used to hate Vlade back in them Arco days…

  • Milan

    I’m really eager to see this too, the trailer alone gave me goosebumps.

  • hammer

    Was fortunate enuff 2 b able 2 c drazen play even tho it was for only 2 seasons b4 his tragic death. I was 13 when he died. And I remember @ the time it was a shocker. And sad. He def was a talent taken away 2 soon. Players like him,vlade,dino,kukoc along w/sarunas marcilonous (I think that’s how u spell it)detlef schrempf and rik smits paved the way 4 the international players of 2day

  • http://n/a d.j.

    agree with hammer.. and definitely excited for this too ! cant wait

  • http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/hoops-in-view Diesel

    What these two acheived on the court is even more incredible when you take into account that they were worrying about their friends and families back home caught in the middle of a war. Divac and his Group 7 are doing amazing things for the impovrished serbian people now. Both good people and a tragic loss in Drazen’s case.

  • KB8toSG8

    I’ll definitely watch this. Loved Divac and his slips when he was a Laker/Sac-town player, :D

  • ALEX80

    Hajde,…..love it, a must watch, Viva Hrvatska!!!

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  • A l a n

    I hope it’ll be available online soon to get to see it. Also hope it helps to make people appreciate world basketball. What Drazen suffered in Portland reminds me a lot of Fernando Martin, who also played in Portland in the late 80s and also died in a car accident (in ’89)

  • Tony

    what do u think is the best thirty of thirty film theyve showed so far?

  • http://slamonline.com riggs

    ^^The U

  • D12FSU

    Run Ricky Run was pretty good too

  • Roadrunner

    Just watched the film and I gotta tell you, if you couldn’t catch the premiere tonight, check ESPN.com for the future showings and make time to watch it. This is a story that you need to hear.

  • http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/chicago-bulls-confidential/ Diesel

    This was the best 30 for 30 by far. The movie did a good job of catching both sides of the story.

  • http://n/a d.j.

    indeed… it wasn’t bias in way i thought.. and im serbian… so… watch it

  • Eraz

    Hey can you tell me if there is Once Brothers somewhere online. Excepte youtube! My email: erazmo4@hotmial.com
    Thanks, Croatian guy!

  • Eraz
  • http://google stefanie bozic

    This movie is absolutely AMAZING! And very, very saaaad! Divac is one great person and humanitarian and this is a great example how tragic war in former Yugoslavia was …to destroy generations and their future and to separate people for not reason at all…so now, young generation will have to heal this pain for decades, cost only by some monstrous politicians all over the world!!
    Divac and Petrovich opened the door in NBA for international stars..And great to remember how former Yugoslavia was a super power in basketball!

  • Jennifer

    Once Brothers and The Two Escobars were definitely the top 30 for 30 installments so far. Into the Wind and the Len Bias ones were really great too, but I think those two are in a league of their own. I thought this documentary did everything right, and the basketball footage was really a treat on top of it all. As a Nets fan who is just a little too young to really remember watching Drazen play as much as I’d like, it was great to see some of his best moments now when I can appreciate him more. Also, seeing Magic in this one was really amusing too.

    I felt like I was there with Vlade as he ventured into Croatia for the first time in 20 years, and it almost felt too deeply personal to watch. I felt like I almost shouldn’t have been watching while he finally sought the closure that eluded him. I give him a ton of credit for doing something so personal on camera for all to see.

    I wouldn’t have minded this being a little longer, and them discussing more about the specifics of the war, but I can see how that would also take away from the point of the film. It really was an incredible and emotional story, and I couldn’t stop the tears either. Really a must see.

  • Luke

    Marvellous documentary. I’ve just watched it for the second time and was really struggling to hold back the tears. Congratulations to everyone involved with making this, and particularly Vlade, who showed what a terrific human being he is.