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Dejan_Bodiroga

Dejan Bodiroga

Dejan Bodiroga (Дејан Бодирога, born March 2, 1973 in Zrenjanin, Serbia, Yugoslavia) is a retired Serbian professional basketball player who is currently the General Manager for the Pallacanestro Virtus Roma of the Italian Serie A League.

He was listed at 2.05 m (6 ft 8 ¾ in) tall and 110 kg (243 lbs.) and was a swingman (small forward-shooting guard).

Player career

Career in Yugoslavia

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

His domestic career took off when, at 17, he was noticed by Kresimir Cosic, who persuaded Bodiroga's family to allow their son to move away to KK Zadar, where first team opportunities soon appeared in Slavko Trninic's team, due to the work with youth manager Josip Pino Grdovic.

Bodiroga's stay on the Dalmatian coast came to a premature end when the conflict that pitted Croats and Serbs against each other inflamed. The country was breaking up, war was 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 Cosic (coaching AEK Athens at the time) tried to persuade Bodiroga to follow suit.

Career abroad

Trials were arranged with AEK and Olympiakos, 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 Tanjevic 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 first 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 Korac Cup final, where they surrendered to PAOK Thessaloniki, who starred Zoran Savic, 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 and Ferdinando Gentile).

Bodiroga's leading role remained unchanged however, as he developed into an all-around player. In 1994/95, Olimpia reached the Korac 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 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 Djordjevic, Vlade Divac, Zarko 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 Stojakovic. 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 Korac 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 2 winning the gold.

In 1996-97, Bodiroga joined Real Madrid after an offer of $1 million per season, and teaming up with coach Zeljko Obradovic, 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 Mikhailov. 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 Zeljko Rebraca, one of the team leaders.

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 Radja, Fragiskos Alvertis and coach Slobodan Subotic. The Greens finally won the Greek Championship after a 14-year wait, 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 1999–2000 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 Ginobili 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.

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

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.

Bodiroga is now the General Manager for the Virtus Roma.

International career

Bodiroga made his debut for the senior FSFR Yugoslav national team in 1991 at the first round of the 1991 Mediterranean Games in Athens. He was a regular for the team throwout the 1990s and early 2000s, participating in a total of three Summer Olympics (1996 Olympic Basketball, 2000 Olympic Basketball, 2004 Olympic Basketball), 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, in which his team, one of the tournament's favorites, was relegated as early as the first elimination round by the French national team on their own home court, in a tournament that ended with fierce allegations from head coach Željko Obradović towards the senior players.

Titles

Club

Yugoslavian national team

Individual Honours & Awards

Personal info

Personal life

On July 13 2003, Bodiroga married his long-time fiancée Ivana Medić in Belgrade's Saborna crkva (one of the most significant Serbian Orthodox Cathedrals). The couple's first child, a boy named Nikola, was born 23 July, 2004.

The son of Vaso and Milka Bodiroga, Dejan is a devout Orthodox Christian. He is idolized in his home country for his on the court prowess and also revered for his unassuming, humble and quiet way of going about matters off the court.

References

External links

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