There’s more to Bojan Bogdanovic than the number 44 on his back.
Born in the Bosnian town of Mostar, Bogdanovic was exposed to a fast-paced city life wholly different than the one he’ll inevitably face in Brooklyn. The sport of basketball is of course most popular in the US, so the path to the NBA for youngsters is already laid out. Bosnia, on the contrary, is ranked 14th in global basketball popularity, so Bojan had to carve his own lane to achieve his dream.
Bogdanovic began his basketball career back in 2004 with his hometown Zrinjski Mostar, making his presence felt immediately. That season, Zrinjski Mostar was brought out from the shadows and into the championship spotlight, winning the Croatian League in Bosnia. That performance led Bogdanovic to his first promotion.
Real Madrid signed Bogdanovic to a five-year deal in 2005, but he was loaned back to Zrinjski Mostar for the 2005-06 season. Lending a player never happens in the NBA, and could sound morally wrong to some fans. In reality, it’s a common practice: all it means is that a team gives a player away to another team, along with his salary, and whenever they want him back, they can take him. It’s like a trade with a mulligan button.
Call it a setback? He saw it as an opportunity, carrying the team to both the Bosnian and Herzegovina Cup and League Semifinals.
The next season, Bogdanovic found his way onto the Real Madrid junior team (he was still only 17) where he played his next two seasons. For the 2008-09 season, he was loaned again, this time to CB Murcia, until rejoining Real Madrid halfway through the season. That was his final season with the club and last time being leased.Moving onto his first seasons of professional Euroleague basketball, Bogdanovic signed a four-year deal in August 2009 with Cibona Zagreb. After a season of adjusting to the new style, the European Paul Pierce found his calling and had a career year, averaging 18 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game on 41 percent shooting from the field. Unfortunately, he posted his great numbers on a terrible team that finished with an 0-10 record in the regular season. Think of that like Evan Turner on the 76ers. Let’s pray that we don’t get Turner the Pacers version.
Not familiar with that Euroleague club? Dario Saric, The 12th pick in this year’s draft, just finished up his final season there before signing with a Turkish team.
Bogdanovic decided not to experience another rebuilding year with Cibona Zagreb in 2011-12, signing a multi-year deal with Fenerbahce Ulker on June 19, 2011.
How did he get to Brooklyn, then? It turns out Bogdanovic made himself eligible for the 2011 NBA Draft just four days after he signed his new deal. Scouts had high hopes for the Croatian shooter, but after he pulled a 2014 Dario Saric before it was considered cool, his mid-first-round hype plummeted.
Bogdanovic didn’t want to catch teams off guard, so he signed his new Euroleague deal in advance, accepting the consequences head-on. On June 23rd, 2011, Bogdanovic slipped down all the way to the first pick of the second round until being snagged by the Miami Heat. Luckily for him, he didn’t have to feel the guilt of making himself ineligible to win Miami’s next 2 titles: moments later he was shipped to Minnesota along with a 2014 second round pick and cash considerations for the draft rights to Norris Cole with the 28th pick. A few minutes later, he was dealt to his third and final team of the night, the then-New Jersey Nets.
The Nets acquired his rights from Minnesota for a 2013 second rounder and cash, and the man’s night was finished. Now he was back off to Istanbul to play for his new club, Fenerbahce Ulker.
Providing 13 points in 24.3 minutes per game on a 46.3 percent shooting, including a Euroleague career high of 41.1 percent from deep, Bogdanovic was a key contributor in the team’s 2012 Turkish National League and National Cup championship titles. His minutes and production increased in his 2012-13 season with Fenerbahce, but the leader in him was just about to be unleashed.
In 2013-14, Bogdanovic led his squad to a Triple Crown: Turkish National League, National Cup and President Cup titles. By then, Bogdanovic did his job by bringing the game of basketball to habitual dinner table conversations all over Bosnia and Croatia, and those extra three pieces of hardware put the icing on top the cake for his European career.
On July 22, 2014, the Brooklyn Nets officially — and finally! — signed Bojan Bogdanovic, the former 31st pick, to a deal slightly more than what a current 4th overall pick would earn.
Bogdanovic gets compared to Mirza Teletovic, the Bosnian forward the Nets signed two seasons ago. They’re too different for that to be fair. Teletovic came into the league undrafted, while Bogdanovic was heavily scouted. Teletovic learned the 3-ball first and is working on developing a paint game; Bogdanovic first established his name in the paint and then expanded his shooting ability. Either way, in the end, they’re hometown heroes and Brooklyn Nets.