Casualty Of War

A new documentary lauds a friendship lost
October 10, 2010

Before civil war came to Yugoslavia, splitting a sports-mad nation into several smaller countries, Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic were the definition of basketball brothers. They roomed together while on the powerful national team and spoke daily by phone as neophyte NBA imports. But the conflict fractured the relationship between the Serbian-born Divac and the late Petrovic, a Croat. "To build a friendship takes so many years," said Divac by phone this week from Belgrade. "To ruin it, just seconds."

Divac and the breakup of the Yugoslavian team are the subjects of Once Brothers, a 90-minute documentary that debuts Oct. 12 on ESPN's 30 for 30 series. Last February, Divac, writer-director Michael Tolajian and an NBA Entertainment crew traveled to Belgrade and then to Zagreb, where Divac visited Petrovic's family. (Petrovic, who starred for the Nets in 1992--93, was killed in a car accident in Germany in '93.)

The doc features interviews with Yugoslavian teammates Toni Kukoc and Dino Radja and stirring moments with the Petrovic family. It was Divac's first time in Croatia in 20 years. "I'm sad that Drazen was not there, but for me it was closure," said Divac. "I found what I was looking for."

PHOTOBRIAN DRAKE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (DIVAC AND PETROVIC)TORN APART Countrymen Divac (left) and Petrovic were split by civil war and the latter's untimely death.
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