Dejan Bodiroga

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Dejan Bodiroga
Dejan Bodiroga 2006.jpg
No. 10
Small forward
Personal information
Born (1973-03-02) March 2, 1973 (age 41)
Klek, SR Serbia, SFR Yugoslavia
Nationality Serbian
Listed height 6 ft 8 34 in (2.05 m)
Listed weight 243 lb (110 kg)
Career information
NBA draft 1995 / Round: 2 / Pick: 51st overall
Selected by the Sacramento Kings
Pro playing career 1989–2007
Career history
1989–1990 KK Proleter Zrenjanin
1990–1992 KK Zadar
1992–1994 Stefanel Trieste
1994–1996 Stefanel
1996–1998 Real Madrid
1998–2002 Panathinaikos
2002–2005 FC Barcelona
2005–2007 Lottomatica Roma
Career highlights and awards

Dejan Bodiroga (Serbian Cyrillic: Дејан Бодирога; born March 2, 1973) is a retired Serbian professional basketball player. Listed at 2.05 m (6 ft 8 34 in) and 110 kg (243 lbs.), he mainly played the small forward position.[1][2] His versatility however, would often allow him to assume a point forward role, as well as both guard positions. A Euroleague icon of the early part of the 2000s, Bodiroga proved himself to be a symbol of excellence by lifting consecutive Euroleague trophies with Panathinaikos and Barcelona, winning the Euroleague Final Four MVP both times. Among many other awards, Bodiroga was named to the 50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors and the Euroleague 2001–10 All-Decade Team.

Bodiroga led Yugoslavia to two FIBA World Cup titles in 1998 and 2002, earning MVP honors in the former. In addition, he won three FIBA EuroBasket gold medals (1995, 1997, 2001) and a bronze (1999), as well as an Summer Olympic Games silver medal in 1996.

Club career[edit]

Yugoslavia[edit]

Bodiroga first started playing structured basketball at the age of 13. He enrolled in Zrenjanin's Mašinac (Servo Mihalj) basketball section, under supervision of local basketball enthusiast Rade Prvulov. At the age of fifteen, he sprung up to 2.05m, and was quickly incorporated into the first team squad, coached by Miodrag Sija Nikolić, a former OKK Beograd and SFR Yugoslav national team player in the 1960s.

His domestic career took off when, at 17, he was noticed by Krešimir Ćosić at a friendly youth tournament that featured Mašinac and KK Zadar among others, where Bodiroga scored 32 points in a game that pitted two teams. Ćosić then brought Bodiroga for a week-long basketball camp in Zadar and eventually persuaded Bodiroga's family to allow their son to move away to Zadar. In the meantime Bodiroga signed a pre-contract with KK Vojvodina so that when he finally went to Zadar in autumn 1989 he wasn't right away eligible for the first team, meaning that he first worked with coach Josip Pino Grdović in the club's youth sections while simultaneously attending high school. After a year he was allowed to be moved into the full squad, then under head coach Slavko Trninić.[3]

After just one season in the first team, Bodiroga's stay on the Dalmatian coast came to a premature end when the conflict that pitted Croats and Serbs against each other inflamed in May–June 1991. The country was breaking up, war was about to start raging, and basketball quickly became an afterthought. Being a player from Serbia in a Croatian city was becoming increasingly uncomfortable for Dejan, so his mentor Ćosić (coaching AEK Athens at the time) tried to persuade Bodiroga to follow suit.

Italy[edit]

Trials were arranged with AEK and Olympiacos, with both clubs offering a contract, on the condition that Bodiroga naturalized as a Greek citizen. He refused and ended in Italy instead, joining a Pallacanestro Trieste emerging team, coached by Bogdan Tanjević and financially backed by the Stefanel clothing empire. In Trieste, Bodiroga first captured the attention of the wider basketball public. Shortly after his arrival in the summer of 1992, he made an impact, averaging 21.3 points per game over 30 league matches and leading his team to the playoffs. There, however, they were quickly disposed of in the second round by the more experienced Pallacanestro Cantù.

He had another stellar season for Trieste in 1993/94, this time leading his team deeper into the playoffs. In the semifinals game 3 against Scavolini Pesaro, Carlton Myers' buzzer beater clinched a 2-1 series victory for Pesaro. Trieste also reached the Korać Cup final, where they surrendered to PAOK Thessaloniki, who starred Zoran Savić, Walter Berry and Bane Prelevic. After that season, Stefanel changed its backing to Olimpia Milano, sparking an exodus of Trieste players and coaches to Lombardy (coach Tanjević, Bodiroga, Gregor Fučka, Alessandro De Pol, Davide Cantarello and Ferdinando Gentile).

Bodiroga's leading role remained unchanged however, as he developed into an all-around player. In 1994/95, Olimpia reached the Korać Cup final, with players that also reached it the previous year in Trieste. However, they lost to ALBA Berlin, coached by Svetislav Pešić, who would later play a big role in Bodiroga's career. On the home front, the team made it to the playoff semi-finals but lost 3-2 to the eventual champions, Virtus Bologna, led by another Serbian superstar, Predrag Danilović. The two Serbs turned the series into a personal duel, with Danilović's experience prevailing in the end.

The summer of 1995 was an important milestone for Bodiroga. He became part of the great Yugoslavia squad that was making its comeback after years of international exile. The team was loaded with stars like Aleksandar Đorđević, Vlade Divac, Žarko Paspalj, Danilović and Savić. Together, they won the gold in one of the most spectacular finals in Eurobasket history against a Lithuanian national team that featured the likes of Arvydas Sabonis, Šarūnas Marčiulionis and Rimas Kurtinaitis.

That same summer, Bodiroga was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in the 1995 NBA Draft (second round, #51 overall). One year later, the Kings selected his younger countryman Peja Stojaković. However, unlike Stojaković, Bodiroga declined the offer to play in the NBA, choosing instead to remain in Europe.

In 1995-96, Bodiroga won his first trophy in Milan, but the Korać Cup was again lost, this time to Efes Pilsen Istanbul. In the league, Bodiroga led the way with 23.3 points per game in 32 regular season matches. During the playoffs, they beat Virtus 3-1 in the semi-finals (Danilovic left for the Miami Heat in the summer), and Teamsystem Bologna led by Myers, Djordjevic and Alessandro Frosini.

By now an established international, Bodiroga took his place in the Yugoslav national team for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and he brought home a silver medal, with Dream Team III winning the gold.

Spain[edit]

For the 1996-97, Bodiroga joined Real Madrid after an offer of $1 million per season, and teaming up with coach Željko Obradović, whom he knew well from his national team stints. The squad also featured veteran Joe Arlauckas as well as established internationals Alberto Herreros and Mikhail Mikhaylov. In the Spanish ACB League finals, they faced an FC Barcelona team that boasted Djordjevic, Jerrod Mustaf and Artūras Karnišovas. Barcelona prevailed 3-2, winning the deciding 5th game 82-69 away, as Madrid settled with the European Cup trophy.

On the national basketball front, Yugoslavia rolled over the competition with considerable ease en route to another European gold in 1997, with Bodiroga again playing an integral role. In the group stages, the Serbs faced the Croatian national team, in the first meeting in basketball between the two nations since the breakup of the old Yugoslavia. The game carried all kinds of political tension and was a low-scoring affair, with Djordjevic winning it for Yugoslavia with a dramatic 3-pointer at the end.

In Bodiroga's next and final season with Real Madrid, (and without Obradovic, who had moved to Benetton Treviso) there were no improvements, as the team was ousted in the league's semifinals by TDK Manresa. He did achieve League MVP honours for the 1997-98 season.

That summer's national team duty was happier, as it brought another World Championship title for Yugoslavia, the first for Bodiroga. Now 25, Bodiroga was, together with Djordjevic (who suffered knee problems and played few minutes) and Željko Rebrača, one of the team leaders.

Greece[edit]

The same summer of 1998 also saw Bodiroga move to the Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos, where club chairman Pavlos Giannakopoulos began assembling a team to conquer Europe. As such, Bodiroga was the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle that already included Dino Rađa, Fragiskos Alvertis and coach Slobodan Subotić. The Greens won the Greek Championship, but the FIBA Champions' Cup ended in a disappointing note, leading to the departures of Radja and Subotic, with the latter's replacement being old acquaintance Obradovic, who brought along Rebraca from Treviso. After such an investment, Panathinaikos captured both the 1999–00 Greek Championship and the Euroleague trophies, the latter coming in a final versus Maccabi Tel Aviv. In 2001, Panathinaikos again won the Greek Championship and also reached the Suproleague final in Paris. A year later, Bodiroga was named the Euroleague Final Four MVP, as the Greeks beat hosts Kinder Bologna, and their star player Manu Ginóbili 89-83.

In the international front, Bodiroga, as the team's undisputed leader, helped Yugoslavia win the 2001 European Championship in Turkey and the 2002 FIBA World Championship in Indianapolis. In this competition, the national side defeated Team USA in the quarterfinals and the Argentine national team in the final, in overtime.

Back to Spain[edit]

In the summer of 2002, Bodiroga returned to the Spanish league's FC Barcelona, which was managed by Svetislav Pešić and had players like Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Gregor Fučka and Juan Carlos Navarro. He won the Euroleague with Barça (the first time the team achieved this), and also added two domestic league titles with them.

Finishing up back in Italy[edit]

In 2005-06, Bodiroga came back to the Italian League, this time with Virtus Roma, re-joining coach Pešić, as the team played in the ULEB Cup. After getting eliminated from European contention in the round of 16 and losing the Italian Cup final (83-85) to Carpisa Napoli, Virtus finished the season in 6th place with a 22-12 record in the national league. Bodiroga finished the year with a 15.7 points-per-game regular season scoring average.

The playoff first round pitted Roma against favorites Mens Sana Basket. After dropping the first game, Bodiroga dominated the series in a 3-1 victory.

Incidentally, the 2006-07 season's playoffs, both teams played again, with the exact opposite outcome. After the fourth and final game, Bodiroga announced his retirement from professional basketball on 8 June 2007.

Euroleague career statistics[edit]

Legend
  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field-goal percentage  3P%  3-point field-goal percentage  FT%  Free-throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  PIR  Performance Index Rating
 Bold  Career high
Denotes seasons in which Bodiroga's team won the Euroleague
Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG PIR
2001–02 Panathinaikos 22 17 32.3 .590 .390 .796 5.2 1.9 1.0 .0 20.0 23.1
2002–03 Barcelona 22 20 31.5 .554 .417 .810 3.8 2.4 .8 .0 16.1 18.9
2003–04 Barcelona 17 17 32.3 .544 .313 .785 4.5 2.4 1.0 .1 14.8 17.5
2004–05 Barcelona 20 18 30.6 .532 .308 .813 4.8 1.1 .5 .1 15.1 16.0
2006–07 Lottomatica 19 17 29.1 .496 .415 .727 4.1 2.5 1.4 .1 13.6 14.7
Career 100 89 31.6 .545 .381 .792 4.5 2.0 .9 .1 16.1 18.2

International career[edit]

Bodiroga made his debut for the senior FSFR Yugoslav national team in 1991 at the first round of the 1991 Mediterranean Games in Athens.[4] He was a regular for the team throughout the 1990s and early 2000s (decade), participating in a total of three Summer Olympics (1996 Olympic Basketball, 2000 Olympic Basketball, 2004 Olympic Basketball[5]), two FIBA World Championships (1998 FIBA World Championship and 2002 FIBA World Championship) and five European Championships (EuroBasket 1995, EuroBasket 1997, EuroBasket 1999, EuroBasket 2001, and EuroBasket 2005).

Bodiroga retired from the national team after the EuroBasket 2005 fiasco,[6] in which his team, one of the tournament's favorites, was eliminated as early as the first elimination round by the French national team on their own home court, in a tournament that ended with a verbal tirade by head coach Željko Obradović at the final press conference, revealing numerous fights between many of the players.[7] Bodiroga was reduced to tears as he was leaving the court for his last international game.

Titles[edit]

Club[edit]

Yugoslavian national team[edit]

Individual Honours and Awards[edit]

Post-playing career[edit]

After retiring from playing professional basketball in June 2007, Bodiroga became the general manager of Virtus Roma, thus continuing at the club where he finished his playing career. He ended his GM term in June 2009.

In April 2010, Bodiroga along with fellow former player Željko Rebrača sued the Carmel, Indiana-based company Worldwide Associates LLC for investment fraud. They allege in their suit they each gave the company more than $4 million to manage, which the company used as venture capital in speculative startup companies instead of investing it in traditional securities.[9]

Personal[edit]

The son of Vaso and Milka Bodiroga, Dejan is a devout Orthodox Christian.[4] His father hails from the village of Bodiroge near Trebinje and was among the wave of migrants from Herzegovina that moved northwards following World War II. On July 13, 2003, Bodiroga married his long-time fiancée Ivana Medić (Ивана Медић) in Belgrade's Saborna crkva (one of the most significant Serbian Orthodox Cathedrals). The couple's first child, a boy named Nikola (Никола), was born 23 July 2004.

He is a relative of another European basketball player - Dražen Petrović. Bodiroga's paternal grandmother and Petrović's paternal grandfather are brother and sister, making Bodiroga and Petrović second cousins.

Though he never played for the club, Bodiroga is a declared fan of Partizan Belgrade and is often seen at their games. Bodiroga is one of the founding members of the Group Seven Children's Foundation.

He is one of few players who have won the Euroleague with clubs from two different countries, and he is also one of the few players to win each of the top 3 European national domestic leagues, the Italian League, the Greek League, and the Spanish League.

Bodiroga is very highly regarded by fans of Panathinaikos BC for his known passion in games with Greek arch-rival Olympiacos and is considered by them as one of the most loved players of all time.[citation needed] In his home country of Serbia, he is idolized for his on-court prowess and also revered for his unassuming, humble and quiet way of going about matters off the court. [10]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Predrag Danilović
Serbia and Montenegro captain
2001 – 2005
Succeeded by
Igor Rakočević
Awards
Preceded by
Predrag Mijatović
Aleksandar Šoštar
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia The Best Athlete of Yugoslavia
1998
2002
Succeeded by
Vladimir Grbić
Vladimir Vujasinović
(for  Serbia and Montenegro)
Olympic Games
Preceded by
Vladimir Grbić
(for  Yugoslavia)
Flagbearer for
 Serbia and Montenegro

Athens 2004
Succeeded by
Jasna Šekarić
(for  Serbia)