Bogdan Bogdanovic was 10 years old and living in Belgrade, Serbia, and life was coming at him fast. He was torn between committing to soccer, the sport he refers to as “the real football,” or basketball, the beautiful game that led Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic across oceans, around the world, ultimately into the arms of the increasingly global NBA. Sixteen years later, the Kings rookie known as “Bogi” remembers where he was, what he was doing, what he was thinking, when lightning struck. “I was watching the final game of the World Championships in Indianapolis (in 2002),” Bogdanovic recalled, “and when we won that gold medal with Vlade and Peja, I said, ‘I decide. Let’s go basketball.’ That was an amazing moment for my country.”
The assist, then, goes to the two Kings executives and that fateful night in Indianapolis, when Serbia shocked the world, prompted USA Basketball officials to completely overhaul the national team program, and convinced a skinny, fun-loving youngster in Belgrade to pick up his basketball and hit the gym. “I never met Vlade Divac when I was a kid,” added Bogdan Bogdanovic. “Only last few years. I would see his picture on the wall at the airport or on billboards (in Belgrade). He is most popular there, still. Now to play for him and Peja and the Kings? It’s pretty cool, for sure.”
Serbia was banned from participating in the Olympic Games of Barcelona due to the ongoing war and that put an obstacle to the national team in more ways than one according to Paspalj. “Surely we weren’t, but that’s not the question,” Paspalj said when asked if Serbia could beat the Dream Team, in an interview with Sputnik. “We lost three or four years of continuity, we lost one generation, a generation which was the best in Europe. Our players started playing in the NBA back in 1989, and probably after a few years, we could be an equal opponent (to the Dream Team). It is sad when you know they took something from you, something you earned it. I think we suffered a great injustice, but later we compensated that and we became the heroes of the nation.”
Paspalj talks about the gold medal that Serbia won in the 1995 EuroBasket Final after beating Arvydas Sabonis’ Lithuania in the Final. “You do not feel comfortable while it’s happening. That’s how it was before. We definitely did something great. We thought it was something completely natural and normal and we deserve to happen to us.”
Sacramento Kings’ Bogdan Bogdanovic has been named the Player of the Year for 2017 by the Serbian Basketball Federation. The Serbian shooting guard won the EuroLeague and Turkish league with Fenerbahce, before moving to the NBA.