As part of a recent interview with The Athletic, Peja Stojakovic gave credit to his former Sacramento Kings teammate, Vlade Divac, for his role in globalizing the game of basketball.
For many young athletes living outside of the United States, playing in the NBA is the ultimate goal. Prior to guys like Divac and others, however, a lot of international prospects were simply overlooked or unheard of. Things have changed quite a bit nowadays, though, as there are players from all over the world employed by teams around the league.
During his interview with The Athletic, Stojakovic noted that it was Divac who gave him the hope that he might one day play in the NBA:
“His impact on basketball was much broader than just the NBA,” said Kings assistant general manager and Divac’s former teammate in Sacramento, Peja Stojakovic. “From the very beginning, at an early age, he played for the national team, in FIBA competition. His ability to affect teams was always something, his ability to lead groups and off the court the kind of work he has done.
“(He was important in) allowing most of us to believe that there is a possibility to one day play in the NBA,” Stojakovic added. “But the game was not global at the time. He was part of that group that really helped globalize the NBA game.”
Divac, now 51 years of age and serving as the vice president of basketball operations and general manager of the Kings, was one of the first European players to make a transition to the NBA. All things considered, the 6-10 center enjoyed a fine career, retiring as one of seven players in league history to record 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocked shots (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol and Hakeem Olajuwon).
“I guess I wasn’t good at soccer,” Divac told the Sacramento Bee earlier this week. “So I played basketball.”
Stojakovic, who now serves as director of player personnel and development for the Kings, was a solid player in his own right. Following a shaky start to his NBA career, he went on to become one of the most prolific marksman the league has ever known. In fact, he won the Three-Point Shootout twice, becoming the first European-born player to win one of the All-Star Weekend events. And to this day, Peja ranks 18th on the NBA’s all-time list for made three-pointers with 1,760.
Divac has become a beloved figure in the hearts of many Kings fans, and he’s set to be awarded with the NBA’s highest honor. On Friday, he’ll be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He’ll be the 15th player in franchise history and the second in the Sacramento era to enter the Hall of Fame (Mitch Richmond).