One hundred and twelve miles per hour. An almost incalculable number of feet per second.
One is the speed at which Stephen Curry shoots a three-pointer. The other is the speed at which Hall of Fame NBA player Drazen Petrovic crashed into a truck on the German Autobahn on June 7, 1993. Petrovic, the passenger in Klara Szalantzy’s car, was found dead on arrival. He was 28.
Twenty-two years later, Stephen Curry was draining a record number of threes en route to the Golden State Warriors’ NBA Championship, garnishing praise as the best long distance shooter of all-time.
A man who once held that title, former Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller, once heralded the late Petrovic as the greatest shooter he had ever seen. Though his NBA career was short, the Croatian converted nearly 44 percent of his three-pointers shots for his career and peaked with two seasons of above 20 points per game.
Now that many pundits consider Steph Curry to hold the title of best long distance shooter of all time, it seems only fitting that the two have a connection that goes beyond the game.
When Steph’s father, Dell, played in the NBA, he and Petrovic were considered two of the best three-point shooters of their era, alongside Miller. Jn the 1992 Three-Point Shooting Contest, a young Steph Curry sat courtside watching both his father and Petrovic.
Without a parent to watch the young boy, Mrs. Petrovic took the responsibility of taking care of a young Curry during the contest. She took care of him when she definitely did not have to. There was no obligation for anyone to make sure Steph was safe and in good hands during a loud and rowdy All-Star Weekend. But she did.
When Stephen Curry and the Warriors hoisted the trophy this past June, he made a promise to the same woman who looked after him 22 years ago when he was just a wide-eyed 5-year-old. He would send one of his game-worn NBA Finals jerseys to her as a token of appreciation and symbol of a family connection that has spanned nearly two decades.
Just the other week, Curry delivered on that promise. A game-worn Finals jersey of the greatest shooter in the league today will now hang in the museum of the man who could have been the greatest shooter ever.
Petrovic’s museum in Zagreb, Croatia, represents more than just his NBA career; it represents the storied tale of a man who brought international basketball to new heights and challenged the U.S. in international competition. Though his NBA career was short lived, many regale us with stories of Petrovic’s exploits.
Not only was he a fantastic shooter, many current players, including LeBron James, say that he was extremely athletic and was more than just a spot up shooter: he was a pure scorer. It was not just his nearly 44 percent three-point conversion rate that boggled minds, it was also his nearly 53 percent efficiency from within the three-point line.
Combining his deadly accuracy and incredible shooting ability with his shortened career, especially in a league that, soon after his death, began to see an increase in three-pointers made, Drazen Petrovic may very well be the greatest “what if” in NBA history.
Steph Curry and the entire Curry family have paid their respects and today’s modern media has given this story more exposure than it would normally get, but it is still uncommon to meet someone who instantly recognizes the Petrovic name. Make no mistake, however, the Croatian basketball legend will forever live on in shooters’ lore.
But he deserves more than just a footnote. With Steph Curry’s gesture, the task of illuminating Petrovic’s career has taken a step in the right direction. Still, many fans find it hard to remember a man whose career ended almost as quickly as it started. And unfortunately, of all the numbers Drazen Petrovic put up in his career, there is none more significant than 112.
Paolo Santamaria is a sophomore in the College. Saxa Synergy appears every Friday.
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