The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's International Committee has finally come to their senses. Sacramento Kings legend and current general manager Vlade Divac will be inducted for his contributions to the game of basketball.
Divac was part of a massive influx of European talent during the late 1980’s and early 90’s. Drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 26th overall selection in the 1989 NBA Draft, he helped set the stage for the league's modern era.
A passing and ball-handling big with a flare for the dramatic, Divac was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie first-team in 1989 when he played 82 games for a 63-win Los Angeles team.
In 1996, the Lakers traded Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for the draft rights to a high-school star named Kobe Bryant. Divac spent the next two seasons playing for the Hornets before joining the Kings as a free agent during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.
Divac helped revitalize basketball in Sacramento. He was the glue that helped bond a talented Kings group who strung together an incredible run under coach Rick Adelman. Divac made his lone All-Star appearance during the 2000-01 season, and helped lead the Kings to the Western Conference Finals during the 2001-02 season.
The Serbian-born 7-footer is one of just seven players in NBA history to record more than 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocks. The other seven players are either in the Hall of Fame, or likely will be heading there when they become eligible.
Divac concluded his 14-year NBA career following the 2004-05 season. He averaged 11.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists over 1,134 regular season games.
While his NBA totals are very good, they only tell a small portion of Divac’s impact on the sport.
As a teenager, Divac joined a talented group of young stars on the Yugoslavian National team in 1988. Prior to the split of Yugoslavia, Divac, along with Dino Radja, Toni Kukoc, Drazen Petrovic and Zarko Paspalj, took the international stage by storm.
“It was a great group of guys that each other better,” Divac told ESPN on Saturday following the announcement. “A lot of those guys made it to the NBA.”
Yugoslavia made it all the way to the gold medal game in Seoul, Korea, before falling to Arvydas Sabonis, Sarunas Marciulionis and their Soviet Union teammates by a final of 76-63. This was only the beginning for this squad.
Over his time playing for either the Yugoslavian or Serbian national teams, Divac took home EuroBasket gold medals in 1989, 1991 and 1995, as well as gold medals at the FIBA World Championship in 1990 and 2002.
Divac’s play in the 1988 Olympics helped land him a job in the NBA. He was part of a foursome of European players -- including Paspalj, Marciulionis and Alexander Volkov -- who cracked into the league during the 1989-90 season and helped pave the way for a massive influx of players from overseas.
“We kind of opened the door for the international guys, now we have more than 25 percent international guys in the league,” Divac said. “We are very proud of our roots, but also basketball is a world sport and we are so happy that we have an impact on it.”
In addition to his accolades on the court, Divac spent eight years (2009-2016) as the President of the Serbian Olympic Committee, and his humanitarian work is legendary.
According to the Kings’ official press release:
“In 2000, Divac became the first foreign-born winner of the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, recognizing his service and dedication to the community. Together with his wife Ana, Divac founded the Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation in 2007 to help refugees address housing needs, raising over $20 million and securing assistance for over 700,000 people. The Foundation is a continuation of their 30 years of humanitarian work, which began in the US with the Humanitarian Organization Divac.”
Divac rejoined the Kings 2015 as an executive and currently holds the role of General Manager. He’s helped rebuild the franchise over the last four years and with 39 wins coming onto Sunday, they have their best season since the 2005-06 season.
The 51-year-old big 7-footer turned to Twitter on Saturday morning to extend his gratitude towards everyone who helped make this possible.
I want to thank my family for their support. I also want to express my appreciation to my teammates, coaches, staff, colleagues and fans who have played a significant role in helping me achieve this incredible recognition.”@Hoophall #ClassOf2019— Vlade Divac (@bgoodvlade) April 6, 2019
Plenty of his former teammates and associates from around the league chimed in as well.
Congrats kralu moj well deserved— Hidayet Türkoğlu (@hidoturkoglu15) April 6, 2019
(1) As disappointed as i am that @realchriswebber’s name was not called to @Hoophall, I am elated for and proud of @bgoodvlade! His impact on the game, globally, cannot be understated. He has paved the way for so many great international players to the NBA. pic.twitter.com/l8irxWsfiz— Pete Youngman (@_petethetrainer) April 6, 2019
(2) A great teammate on the court, and a humanitarian off it. A born leader, the @SacramentoKings are fortunate to have @bgoodvlade in his current role of GM. Congratulations my friend on this very well deserved honor, you continue to make #SacramentoProud!! #HOF pic.twitter.com/A9TfOtegDM— Pete Youngman (@_petethetrainer) April 6, 2019