Family, friendship, love and war were key themes in Kings general manager Vlade Divac’s remarks when he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Divac, 51, a native of Serbia and one of the first European players to find success in the NBA, was feted for his illustrious career and enormous role in globalizing the game. He became the 15th player in Kings franchise history and the second in the Sacramento era to enter the Hall of Fame, joining Mitch Richmond.
Divac let out a heavy sigh as he began to speak during NBA TV’s broadcast of the induction ceremony at Springfield Symphony Hall.
“Wow,” he said. “To me, the game of basketball has always been about love, so it’s a good thing I had my agent and good friend, Mark Fletcher, by my side to make sure I made some money along the way.”
The crowd chuckled. Divac continued.
“I believe the love gives you the freedom and power to share your best self and to inspire others,” he said. “Love liberates you and gives you the power to make the impossible possible. Just like in life, when you play basketball, you have to give in order to receive.”
Divac thanked coaches and teammates in the former Yugoslavia, saying the bond they share outlasted the wars that ripped their nations apart as the Yugoslav Wars raged in the Balkans region from 1991-2001.
“Even though politics, war and hate tried to break us apart, they didn’t succeed,” Divac said. “They didn’t know that our love for each other was that much stronger than all the hate they were trying to impose on us. The people of Balkans are like a dysfunctional family. We may fight and argue, but in the end we are family.”
Divac thanked his former NBA coaches, including Rick Adelman and Pete Carril, and former teammates such as Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic, who were seated in the audience.
“Chris, Peja – I love you,” he said.
Divac also thanked his parents, brother, wife, Ana, and their children, calling them “my greatest pride and accomplishment in my life.”
Divac gave a special thanks to the man who presented him for induction, former Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West, who made the decision to select Divac with the 26th pick in the 1989 NBA Draft.
Divac was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 1990. He would spend 16 seasons with the Lakers, Charlotte Hornets and Kings, becoming the first foreign-born-and-trained player to log more than 1,000 games in the NBA. He is one of seven players in NBA history to record 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocked shots, along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Hakeem Olajuwon and Pau Gasol.
Divac enjoyed his best years with the Kings, as a once-moribund franchise transformed into an international sensation. He was chosen to play in the 2001 NBA All-Star Game and helped the Kings reach the Western Conference finals in 2002. The team retired his No. 21 jersey in 2009.
Divac also had a highly decorated international career in the former Yugoslavia. He won two Olympic silver medals, two gold medals at the European Championships and two gold medals in the FIBA World Cup. He was named to the list of FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players in 1991 and the 50 Greatest EuroLeague Contributors in 2008.
Paul Westphal, who coached the Kings from 2009-2012, was also inducted as a player. Westphal was a five-time NBA All-Star and a three-time All-NBA First Team selection who won a championship with the Boston Celtics in 1974.
Also inducted were Bobby Jones, Bill Fitch, Sidney Moncrief, Jack Sikma, the Tennessee A&I teams of 1957-59, Teresa Weatherspoon, Al Attles, Charles Cooper, Carl Braun and the Wayland Baptist University teams of 1948-82.