Zagreb, 7 June 2020 - On this day 27 years ago, one of the greatest Croatian athletes of all time, Dražen Petrović, was killed in a car accident on the Nuremberg-Munich highway near the city of Ingolstadt in Germany. “Basketball Mozart,” as Italian journalists once called him, left us at the peak of his sports fame, at the age of 29.

At the age of 13, he began his magnificent basketball career in his hometown of Šibenik, and already at the age of 15 he played at Baldekin for the first team of the basketball club Šibenka. From 1984, he played for the basketball club Cibona, with which he has won two European Champion titles, and four years later he moved to Real Madrid. After a series of trophies with the “royal club" from Madrid", he moved to the strongest league in the world, the NBA, first to Portland, and then - to New Jersey. While wearing the Nets’ jersey he achieved another success, reaching the position of one of the best shooters of the entire league. His retired jersey with the number 3 under the roof of the New Jersey sports hall is the best proof on how important he was to them.

He was the leader and captain of the famous Croatian National Basketball Team, winners of silver medal at the Barcelona Olympics 1992, ​​playing the final match against the only real American "Dream Team", and ten years later he joined some of Dream Team’s members in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. As member of the national basketball team of the former state, he won another Olympic silver - in Seoul in 1988 and bronze in Los Angeles in 1984.

Dražen Petrović played his last match for Croatia on 5 June 1993 in Wroclaw, Poland, against Slovenia in qualifications for the European Championships. The Croatian National Basketball Team was returning from Poland by plane, however, its captain left Frankfurt in direction Munich by car with his girlfriend Klara Szalantzy and her friend. The fatal collision on the A9 motorway near Ingolstadt took away the "basketball Mozart" forever...

In 1995, the Croatian Olympic Committee (COC) donated to the Olympic Museum in Lausanne a sculpture with a motif of Dražen's basketball, the work of sculptor Vasko Lipovac, which soon became a monument to Dražen Petrović in the local Olympic Park. In memory of Dražen Petrović, in 2006 the Croatian Olympic Committee established an annual award with his name, intended for athletes up to 20 years of age. Every year, the award ceremony is held at the Dražen Petrović Museum-Memorial Center on the square of the same name in Zagreb. All young athletes, winners and candidates for Award Dražen Petrović, are extremely honored when their name is associated with such a legend, because Dražen Petrović remained a lasting inspiration and flair to the sports generations of our beautiful homeland, as well as to many outside its borders and beyond the European continent. (COC/VK)