You meet icons in the strangest places. On a drab March evening in Croatia, an equally drab bandbox is half-filled for a Euroleague game between Cibona Zagreb and Spain's Tau Ceramica. The arena could pass for a CBA barn, except for the bulletproof Plexiglas that shields the visiting team from epithets and more physical means of assault. Just before the tip, a familiar-looking basketball junkie settles into his seat. You do a double take; yep, it's Rudy T. During a break, you sidle up to the former Rockets coach, revered in these parts for his Croatian roots, and ask him the obvious question: what the hell are you doing here?
"This is just one of the stops," says Tomjanovich, who's since moved on to the Lakers. "Basketball is so global, you have to look everywhere." He rubs his jet-lagged eyes. "A lot of that has to do with the guy who this place is named after."
In America, the name Drazen Petrovic is just a brief blur of agate type and end-of-the-hour highlights, an elusive memory of shots shredding nets in the Meadowlands. But cross the Atlantic, and that changes. In Europe, and especially here in Zagreb, home to the Drazen Petrovic Basketball Center, the man is a legend-equal parts Jordan, James Dean and Columbus. MJ, because many consider Petro the best European player ever, a relentless competitor who led tiny war-ravaged Croatia to silver at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Dean, because Petrovic died young, in a car crash, the autobahn subbing for the Grapevine. And Columbus? No player did more to open America to Old World ballers than the kid from Sibenik.