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Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Once Brothers": Vlade Divac and Dražen Petrović

I was privileged to see most of the documentary, "Once Brothers," on ESPN on October 12th. (I was channel surfing -- I haven't watched ESPN during prime time for months.)

This is a great documentary, combining basketball, international politics, and forgiveness and reconciliation. See here for a review. The film is available here, and probably in other places. It concentrates on Vlade Divac, a Serbian, and Dražen Petrović, a Croatian. Both were basketball players. They came to the US, drafted by NBA teams. At that time, they were both citizens of Yugoslavia, and great friends. They played together on the Yugoslavian National Basketball team, which beat a good US team in an international tournament. They would talk to each other for hours. (They were on two different NBA teams, so didn't see each other much.)

Unfortunately, Yugoslavia fell apart, and so did their relationship. They barely spoke. Then Petrović was killed in an auto accident, just as he was coming into NBA stardom.

The film has footage of NBA and other basketball, and discusses the careers of the two men. It features interviews with Magic Johnson, who was a teammate of Divac, and with some US-born teammates of Petrović. More importantly, it shows interviews with Toni Kucoč and Dino Radja, both Croatians who were former Yugoslavians, and former NBA players, as they give their views of what happened to the relationship between the two principals.

Divac, although seldom mentioned now, had one of the great careers of NBA players, being "one of six players in NBA history to record 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocked shots, along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett and Hakeem Olajuwon," according to the Wikipedia article on him. Petrović might have had an equally lustrous career, had he lived. (I did a little research on the NBA site, and discovered that the organization didn't always keep track of blocked shots. Bill Russell almost certainly would have been included in this small group, if they had. Perhaps other players would have, too.)

It was a pleasure to hear from players I used to watch on TV. It was a pain to hear how the two principals fell out over geography, ethnicity, and international politics. The falling out was probably the fault of neither, or perhaps both. Divac, at least, apparently tried to mend the breach, but never was able to.

The film includes footage of Divac traveling to Croatia, where he had not been in many years, and visiting the parents of his old friend. It seems clear that he reconciled with them, and they with him, at least. Original friendship, and reconciliation, are important to us. They are even more important to God. (The film is not overtly religious, but indicates that Petrović read his Bible more during a time when he was disappointed because he didn't get much playing time, and Divac uses God's name a time or two, in a grateful way.)

Paul mentions Christ's ministry of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:11-18 and Romans 5:11.

Thanks for reading. If you need to reconcile with someone, or with God, do so.

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