Saturday, September 13, 2014

Once Brothers, A Basketball Film Recommendation For Premier Hoops

Once Brothers is a sports documentary written and directed by Michael Tolajian.  It was released in 2010 and co-produced by NBA Entertainment and ESPN for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series.  Once Brothers is a basketball documentary, but it is also a story of friendship, war, and the grudges we keep in life which can be dictated by external factors.  

Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic were teammates on the Yugoslavian National Team which dominated Europe in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  The Yugoslavian National Team was Europe’s version of Showtime, as it featured athletic big man who could shoot and pass, and played the game with a cerebral intelligence and familiarity that few teams could compete with.  

Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic became the first foreign players to become stars in the NBA.  Divac was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers and Petrovic was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers.  Divac found immediate success and popularity as he fit right in at center inside of the Lakers’ Showtime offense.  Petrovic on the other hand, struggled finding minutes behind Clyde Drexler and spent the majority of his time on the bench wondering what went wrong as Drazen was considered Europe’s greatest player at the time.  Divac and Petrovic would call each other on a daily basis to check-in on their professional and personal progress in the United States.  

Though Divac and Petrovic both played for the Yugoslavian National Team, Divac was from the Republic of Serbia and Petrovic was from the Republic of Croatia.  After a Yugoslavian National Team game, a fan ran onto the court promoting the Croatian flag.  In attempt to show that the team stood together as a united Yugoslavia, Divac ripped the Croatian flag out of the fans hands.  This act was viewed as disrespectful to Croatia and silently Drazen was angered by the jester.  As the two players returned to the United States for the upcoming NBA season, things were different.  Drazen became distant from Vlade, and did not return his calls and interact with him before games.  A civil war broke out between Serbia and Croatia which only added to the pressures of Drazen not to associate with Vlade.  Drazen returned home during the summer to play for the now Croatian National Team after having an all-star season with the New Jersey Nets.  Drazen and his girlfriend decided to drive to the following game after a practice.  Drazen ended up perishing in a car accident and him and Vlade never got to the opportunity to reconnect with one another and make amends.

Once Brothers documents Divac’s journey as he visits Croatia for the first time since Drazen’s death to visit his grave and his family.  Once Brothers is a great basketball film, but it is also a great social commentary.  As teammates, certain bonds and friendships are formed from rigorous travel while trying to conquer unfathomable goals.  This film reminds the viewers not to forget about those moments.  

I highly recommend this film to anyone who is a fan of the game of the basketball.   It’s also a great film to learn more out more about the tragic civil war between Serbia and Crotia and how fragile things can become in an instance.  If you are searching for a powerful basketball film, or are in need of material for your next school project, make sure to check out, Once Brothers.  

Contributing writer Jasen Sousa for Premier Hoops is the author of a number of poetry and fiction books for young people.  Jasen has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and is a life-long participant and fan of the game of basketball.  

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