For basketball legend Vlade Divac moving to USA as part of the first group of European players to be transferred to the NBA in the late 1980s was a blessing in disguise.
Former NBA star Vlade Divac trains kids at IES Raja Shivaji HS in Dadar yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble
In this city, to conduct a clinic at the IES Raja Shivaji school (Dadar) as a part of the Reliance Foundation junior NBA program, the 46-year-old seven-foot-one-inch former basketballer spoke about how the sport helped him stay away from the Yugoslav war (1991-99). "War broke out back home just two years after I left for the NBA program.
It wasn't easy to stay away from family when I knew there was an ethnic conflict going on in then Yugoslavia. To keep my mind away from war, I began training hard.
I knew that many people back home (in Serbia, after Yugoslavia broke up into Serbia and Montenegro) were following my career, so I had to play well to make them proud," said Divac, who is one of six players in NBA history to record 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds and 3,000 assists along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett and Hakeem Olajuwon.
In June 2007, Divac and his wife Ana initiated the Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation to help refugees of war-affected areas back home. "As president of the Serbian Olympic Committee, I try to generate funds to help other Serbians live their sporting dream," added former Los Angeles Lakers star Divac.