- Muzejsko Memorijalni Centar Drazen Petrovic
Not far from the main train station in Zagreb and near the university one finds the Drazen Petrovic Museum, a memorial to one of the greatest sports heroes in Croatia’s history. Adjacent to this small museum is the basketball arena, with a giant statue of Petrovic in front of it, and a café that Petrovic owned and which still bears his name. The museum is in a large lobby area of a high rise building, the Cibona Basketball Tower on Drazen Petrovic Square.
Petrovic (1964–1993) was a member of the Yugoslavian Olympic teams of 1984 (Los Angeles, bronze medal) and 1988 (Seoul, silver medal) and the 1992 Croatian team (Barcelona, silver to the U.S “Dream Team”), and won both a FIBA World Championship (1990) and a European Championship (1989). He won the Mr. Europa Award in 1986 and 1993. At his death, at age twenty-eight, Petrovic had just completed his best National Basketball Association (NBA) season with the New Jersey Nets, averaging 23.6 ppg and being named to the All NBA Third Team.
The museum is not large, but the artifacts that it contains are surprisingly comprehensive. The museum was established with cooperation from Petrovic’s parents and funds from the Croatian Sports Museum, the city of Zagreb, and the Croatian government. Displays include Petrovic’s earliest game uniforms from his young teen years, as well as certificate of recognitions, medals (Olympic and otherwise), jerseys from all the teams on which he played, and various other ephemera from Petrovic’s life.
There are ten display cases, five on the first floor and five more up a winding staircase to an overlooking landing. All cases have explanations in both Croatian and English, and each case has about a dozen items in it. The cases are arranged chronologically and include commentary and comparisons with some other players such as Michael Jordan, whose statistics for the four years of Petrovic’s NBA play are displayed to indicate Petrovic’s superior shooting accuracy during that time. [End Page 133]
Petrovic is celebrated in Croatia as one of the biggest, if not the biggest, international sports star in Croatian history. His impact on a young country, struggling for international recognition, cannot be overestimated. He also represents one of the earliest of the European stars to enter the NBA (along with Detlef Schrempf and Arvydas Sabonis), presaging the flood of international stars who followed them in the next two decades.
Outside the cases and on the stairway walls are the jerseys of Petrovic from the three Olympic teams of Yugoslavia and then Croatia, the Portland Trailblazers, and the New Jersey Nets. The watch that Petrovic was wearing at the time of the crash that killed him in Germany is also displayed. It stopped at the time of death. He was killed while as a passenger in an automobile that was hit by an out-of-control truck on a rain-slicked highway.
If one is fortunate and the traffic is slow, one may get a personalized tour from the museum attendant, who is also the gift shop purveyor. The gift shop includes the usual t-shirts, pens, photos and other small memorabilia. Admission includes a souvenir post card that depicts the Petrovic statue and part of the arena and a profile shot of Petrovic on the obverse. The museum has a web site, but it is in need of updating, though the background material is accurate and interesting. [End Page 134]