Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki on Nets' Drazen Petrovic: "An icon and legend"
The Mavericks' German star acknowledges the influence Petrovic had on his career
Mavericks’ legend Dirk Nowitzki is a former NBA Champion, Finals MVP and NBA MVP. He is largely considered to be the greatest European player to have ever graced the league. Yet, one of the biggest compliments he has ever received came from none other than Drazen Petrovic’s mother.
“She said, I remind her of her son,” Nowitzki told BrooklynNets.com. “So I gave her a big hug and to this day that’s one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever gotten.”
Nowitzki met Petrovic’s mother, Biserka, in 2005 shortly after his Germany side had lost to Greece in the European Championship that year in Serbia. Despite finishing with a silver medal, the then-27-year-old was the tournament’s standout as he averaged 26.1 points per game and finished as the MVP.
After the game, Marko Pešić, a national teammate of Nowitzki who was born in Yugoslavia, mentioned that there was a woman who wanted to meet him. It was Petrovic’s mother, who immediately praised Nowitzki before the two hugged. It was a big moment for the German, considering Petrovic’s legacy in Europe.
“Everybody loved him in Europe,” Nowitzki said. “He was an icon and a legend.”
Growing up in Germany, the center admits he didn’t get to see much of Petrovic’s NBA performances. Most of the highlights he saw of the guard came from his national team action with Yugoslavia and Croatia.
“I remember Drazen as being one of the best European players ever,” he said. “As being a hard, hard worker. I remember him being a big time shot maker, whether it was a three or off the dribble – he was a competitor, a warrior, a fighter.”
Though Petrovic’s life came to tragic end in an automobile accident when he was just 28 years old, his impact on both the NBA and global basketball is undeniable. He is arguably the first European player who could be considered a true franchise star. He is the first player from the continent to be named to an All-NBA team, getting placed in the third team in 1993. His stardom helped paved the way for the influx of players like Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kristaps Porzingis.
“He influenced everyone who started [playing basketball] around that time, he had a big influence,” Nowitzki said.