A condensed version of Dan Patrick's interview with Sacramento Kings center Vlade Divac appears in the March 5 edition of ESPN The Magazine.
|Vlade Divac, left, and Chris Webber are a dynamic inside duo for the Kings.|
Dan Patrick: How did you feel about your All-Star selection? You hear that today's athlete, today's player doesn't really care about the All-Star Team. You feel differently?
Vlade Divac: Probably because it was the first time for me and it was always a dream for me when I grew up and watched Magic and Larry Bird playing in the All-Star games. I was always thinking about it, that maybe one day I'll have the same opportunity.
DP: When you were in Yugoslavia, how would you be able to watch the All-Star Game?
VD: It was televised. It was one of, let's say, 10 games per year that you saw on television, televised for audiences over there.
DP: What time was it on?
VD: It was usually late night, like midnight, one o'clock in the morning. So we had to really stay awake all night long.
DP: Did you want to be Magic or did you want to be Larry?
VD: Well, I was a big fan of Larry, but the Lakers were my team, so I always rooted for Magic.
DP: So is it a little more painful, then, to be known as the guy traded for Kobe Bryant?
VD: When I look back on those days, yes. I felt terrible, but when I look right now, actually that was a good move by the Lakers because Kobe really is one of the best players in the league -- and I would do the same thing if I'm the general manager.
DP: You would trade you?
VD: Absolutely. For Kobe, yes.
DP: But it was painful to have to leave the team that you grew up loving.
VD: Yes ... I thought I would finish my career with the Lakers, but unfortunately it happened. And I have a great time now in Sacramento and I had a wonderful two years in Charlotte. So basically it was a wonderful experience for me.
DP: Tell me something surprising about Chris Webber.
VD: Well, I was very surprised when I met him for the first time when he came to Sacramento. ... All the things about Chris I knew through the papers and interviews, and I was very surprised how good he was as a player and as a person too.
DP: Yes, but give me something surprising. Something that I wouldn't know.
VD: Well, if you ask me to tell you if he's going to stay or not, I have no idea...
DP: Do you have a nickname?
VD: Not really. Everybody calls me Vlade.
DP: Does your wife have a pet name for you?
VD: Yes, but it's in my language so it wouldn't mean anything to you guys.
DP: That's all right. You can tell me what it is.
VD: Well, I guess it's a personal thing.
DP: Oh, so you can't reveal it?
VD: No, it's just something that I'll keep in my marriage.
DP: Oh, so it's something lovey that you don't want to...
DP: Who's the funniest guy in the NBA?
VD: I love Darrick Martin. I mean, my team is in Sacramento and he's such a funny guy that I cannot imagine going to the games and practices without him.
DP: Is he a practical joker or is he just a funny guy?
VD: He's a joker. I mean he jokes 24 hours a day.
DP: Best practical joke you've ever played on somebody.
VD: Actually, I don't know whose idea this was, but they played a joke on me when they -- I like donuts in the mornings, so usually I tell rookies to bring every morning donuts for me. And they put donuts in wax, telling me that's glazed donuts, and I almost ate it.
DP: What's it like to play with Jason Williams.
|Point guard Jason Williams directs the Kings' attack.|
VD: Well, for me it's fun because I had a chance to play with Magic and they are very similar guys except, you know, Jason has a long way to go. They make exciting passes and run the floor, push the ball ... basketball that I really like to play.
DP: So it helped playing with Magic to prepare you for playing with Jason.
VD: Oh, absolutely. Yes. Jason is just a wonderful person ... and he can really be one of the best guys I ever played with.
DP: How many times has he hit you on the head?
VD: He's hit me a couple of times. But now I'm ready.
DP: How boring is Sacramento?
VD: For me it's not. I'm a very family-oriented guy, so when I need to do a night life I can really go to L.A. or San Francisco, so I'm fine with Sacramento.
DP: Game-day ritual and game-day meal.
VD: Well, I wake up an hour before a shoot-around. I go to the practice, finish, go to lunch, go back to sleep. I have a little nap of a couple of hours and get ready to go to the game. It's basically simple for me.
DP: And what's the meal. Do you have a pregame meal at home?
VD: Usually I go with the pasta, you know. It's my favorite food. I like meat sauce and alfredo sauce, mixing those two.
DP: Worst rule in the NBA.
VD: Worst rule. Hmmm. I don't know. I've been playing basketball for a long time. I played in Europe and ... I had basically worse rules in European basketball -- like everybody has to eat together. ... In the NBA they don't have rules.
DP: So there's nothing about the game or any rule you have to abide by that bothers you?
VD: Maybe lately,when they start changing the rules ... you know, with that circle in the lane when they control who's going to get the foul, if it's a charge or not. That's what I don't like.
DP: Favorite musician.
VD: Elton John.
DP: How did that happen?
VD: Well ... he has nice songs.
DP: What's the most American thing about you and your life?
VD: I don't know. I've become very American, especially the last couple of years. I don't know. I like traveling. I guess that's what Americans like to do.
DP: Athletic heroes growing up besides Magic and Larry?
VD: Muhammad Ali.
DP: Did you ever meet Ali?
VD: Yes. I had a chance to meet him at the Olympic games in Atlanta in '96.
DP: Now how would you see those fights, or how did you know about Ali?
VD: My dad used to wake me up ... whenever he was fighting, he would wake me up at two or three o'clock in the morning and we would watch as a family. He was our hero.
DP: Did you want to be a boxer?
VD: No, I was a tiny European kid trying to be a soccer player.
DP: And when did you realize that you couldn't be that?
VD: When my dad bought me a new jersey. I was a goalkeeper and it was a rainy day. The ball kept getting stuck in the mud and I kept trying to go around the muddy puddles so my new jersey wouldn't get dirty. The coach told me to find an indoor sport. So I had to go with the basketball.
DP: Favorite NBA city.
VD: New York and Los Angeles.
VD: In New York, I think the fans in Madison Square Garden, they really understand basketball -- and Los Angeles is just a city where I came from Europe first and fell in love.
DP: Tell me about your wedding day.
VD: My wedding day was a Sunday, July 1st in '89, and it was wonderful. All my friends, Anna's friends, my family, her family -- and it was beautiful.
DP: Was it nationally televised?
VD: Yes. It was -- because it was a huge day. I am Michael Jordan in Yugoslavia, and Big Ben.
DP: How did it feel to be Michael Jordan in Yugoslavia?
VD: Well, it was very hard, you know, because wherever you go, people would recognize you, so I was glad that I was leaving to the United States.
DP: Are you treated like a hero when you go back?
VD: Yes, as a hero -- because Yugoslavia is basketball country. They love basketball and they really follow the NBA almost. I mean, every single day they have a lot of stories about NBA players, so they are very proud to have, you know, I think there are five guys right now from Yugoslavia [in the NBA] -- and I was the first one in '89.
DP: How would you rate your acting?
VD: 1-10, it should be a 10.
DP: You're a 10?
VD: I'm a good actor ... but I don't like to act.
DP: You don't like to act?
VD: No, because I tried a couple of times, you know. ... When I played for the Lakers I did a couple of movies and it's just it's not for me.
DP: What would you say is the highlight of your acting career?
VD: I think it would be "Space Jam" -- because that's the movie that I did just for my kids. So when they watch the movie, my little one -- he was, I think, 3 years old back then -- he asked me when he saw me with Bugs Bunny, "Dad, you know Bugs Bunny?" I said, "Yes, I'm very good friends with him."
DP: You can have a big impression on those kids in the strangest ways.
VD: It's true.
DP: How old are you, really?
VD: I'm 33.
DP: OK, so Europeans aren't lying about their ages when they come over here?
VD: That's what Americans always try to make up.
DP: So you are 33.
DP: Are you still a smoker?
DP: You were a smoker.
DP: How many packs a day would you go through?
VD: Not even one. Just 10 cigarettes a day.
DP: And when did you realize that maybe I shouldn't be smoking?
VD: When I came to the NBA, I tried to improve.
DP: Your health.
VD: No, my game ... health, too, but the game was on my mind.
DP: Well, the NBA's got to be happy that you would be smoking cigarettes as opposed to something else, like everybody else does in the league.
VD: Well, it's all the same thing -- it's all bad things, you know. Nobody's perfect...
DP: Give me your offseason regimen for getting in shape. Because you get grief because you're not in shape when you show up. I'm curious what you do in the offseason that gets you in trouble.
VD: I stay too much on the beach.
DP: Yes, but aren't you concerned how you look when you're on the beach?
VD: No, really, I'm just enjoying myself. I don't care what other people say or think.
DP: Yes, but when you show up at camp, don't you get grief from your teammates and coaches?
VD: No. Maybe last year I was out of shape, but before that I was pretty good.
DP: Who do you look at matching up with? Is there a rivalry that you look forward to?
VD: I love basketball as a game, so I really don't care who I play -- except Shaq. I don't like to play against him.
DP: Is that because he basically took your job with the Lakers?
VD: No, it's because he's right now the best center in the league and it's really hard to play against him. He's very strong and he's ahead of his time, you know. He's for basketball in 10 years.
DP: Where do you side on the Kobe-Shaq feud?
VD: I think they are both wrong. They are the two best players in the world and they just won the championship, so when I look at that kind of situation I would really think, what's best for the team? I think it's selfish from both sides.