20 years ago today, New Jersey Nets great Drazen Petrovic was tragically killed in a car crash in Germany. Petrovic had played 2 1/2 seasons with the Nets, averaging 22.3 points per game on 51.8% shooting (44.9% from beyond the arc) in his last season in the NBA.
Mark Ginocchio remembered Petrovic’s impact on him back in 2010:
Before the season started, I read in all the magazines about the Nets two young rising stars, Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson. Then I read about the Nets veteran coach, Chuck Daly. Drazen Petrovic, a career bench player when the Nets acquired him from Portland in 1991, seemed like an afterthought, despite averaging more than 20 points per game in 91-92 and more than 24 points per game in the playoffs that season.
But Petro was the player I instantly gravitated towards. He wasn’t some kind of athletic freak or playground legend like so many other players in the NBA. He was a shooter with a chip on his shoulder, completely unafraid to take on anyone. When he was thrust into a starting role with the Nets, Petro always carried himself like he belonged there – that those who doubted his ability to be on the court for 40 minutes a game would be forced to shut up once he caught a pass near the top of the three-point line and drilled a trey. The guy even had his own signature play-by-play call: I still get chills thinking of Sports Channel play-by-play man Spencer Ross saying (and if I misremember if this came from Ross or not, I apologize in advance), “Petro for three … Got it!” When you compare Petro to some of the other personalities on that 92-93 Nets team, Coleman, Anderson and Chris Morris – guys who were more less handed the keys to the car – is it any shock that I fell in love with the player who had to turn back all the clocks in his house, rifle through his mom’s purse and take off with the family car, just to get a chance to go out and make an impression in this league?