I first started seriously following the NBA in the early-mid ’90s, and two of my favorite non-Knicks players were the subject of this week’s “30 for 30” film, “Once Brothers,” a review of which is coming up just as soon as I shoot a commercial with Magic…
I liked Vlade Divac because he was weirdly slovenly for an athlete (I half expected to see a cigarette dangling from his mouth as he ran up the court), because the contrast of his talent and erratic play frustrated Magic Johnson in a way that always seeemed amusing and because when he was playing really well (as he would most consistently on those turn-of-the-century Kings teams), he made the game incredibly fun to watch.
Drazen Petrovic, on the other hand, was great to watch because he wasn’t fun. He was an assassin, striving to get a team filled with knuckleheads (several of whom were interviewed for this film) to be taken seriously. I loved watching him bury a big shot and then pump his fist, or command the Meadowlands crowd to get up on their damn feet already, and was very sad to hear about his death, so soon after America had finally started to realize how great he was.
Though it was probably too long (I could have done without some of the childhood material about Vlade and Drazen, and maybe some of Vlade’s travelogue before he got to Croatia), “Once Brothers” did a nice job of telling the sad story of how politics tore apart that great Yugoslavian team, and the friendship between Divac and Petrovic, and how Drazen’s fatal car accident prevented any chance for the former brothers to reconcile. It’s unclear how many of the weird looks Vlade got in Croatia were because of his past versus people simply noticing a 7-foot tall man being trailed by a camera crew, but his visits to Drazen’s family his grave were among the more moving moments of the “30 for 30” series.
What did everybody else think?