Vlade Divac could be considered a lightning rod for bad luck, however a box seat appearance at the 2012 Australian Open men’s final is helping curb that notion.
Divac featured in fellow countryman Novak Djokovic’s corner during his epic five-hour victory over Rafael Nadal, acting as a good-luck charm of sorts.
Divac was mostly a fan favorite during his time in the NBA for the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings, though his career was peppered with vivid moments of despair and unfortunate twists.
He played a pioneering part as one of the early European imports to carve out a staring role in the NBA, but he drew the ire of opponents and fans with his notorious habit of flopping on defense.
In a way, Vlade helped introduce the european style of flopping and the associated soccer-like antics of milking fouls, which is now rampant in today’s NBA.
He was one of the best passing big-men of his generation and possessed a deft shooting-touch for a seven-footer, hitting heights of an All-Rookie First Team selection in 1989 and All-Star season in 2001.
He was an integral member of some memorable teams that made deep runs in the playoffs, but were stopped agonisingly close to achieving the ultimate goal.
Yugoslavia’s triumph at the 1990 FIBA World Championships was momentarily dulled when Divac became embroiled with a fan holding a Croatian flag.
The full repercussions of that polarizing moment were made famous by Divac’s involvement in ESPN Films’ 30 For 30 documentary ‘Once Brothers’.
In his second NBA season, Vlade and the Lakers won the opening game of the 1991 NBA Finals, but were subsequently swept by Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the next four games.
This gave the young Bulls their first championship, triggering the first of two dominating three-peats during the ’90s.
The Lakers only returned to prominence after Vlade was traded to the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 for the draft rights to Kobe Bryant.
As Bryant rapidly improved and gave the dominant Shaquille O’Neal a legitimate second scoring option, the Lakers would become the next team to claim a three-peat.
The third of their three championships came at the expense of Divac’s Sacramento Kings, who led the Lakers 3-2 in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, but were controversially beaten in the last two games.
In 2008, it was revealed that Tim Donaghy, one of the referees involved in that series was involved in a betting and fixing scandal that shed light on a disparaging foul difference that benefitted the Lakers.
Divac, who is now the President of the Olympic Committee of Serbia was present as Djokovic advanced in the semifinals.
In the final, as night became morning with the crowd rallying behind Nadal serving for the championship; perhaps the animated support of that loveable, seven-foot bearded Serb helped get Djokovic home in some small way.
29 Enero 2012