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Vlade Divac on how a war tore apart friendships, basketball in Yugoslavia

Oct 12, 2010, 12:08 PM EDT

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“…we should take it more seriously, because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. In this movie, everything seemed nice with our team and our relationship and our country and in one second, everything went upside down. It was a lot of manipulations, a lot of politics. You can definitely learn from the experience that I had.”

—Vlade Divac, in an interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin.

Vlade Divac’s life in basketball — on and off the court — is a fascinating one. And maybe nobody has had the realities of politics, war and death cross the imaginary lines we set up between the “real world” and the escape that is basketball quite like Divac.

It is all chronicled in an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary that debuts tonight, Once Brothers. (Watch the trailer here.)

The movie focuses on the relationship between Divac and Drazen Petrovic, two good friends who had their relationship torn apart by the civil war, genocide and more that tore apart the country of Yugoslavia. It speaks to relationships never repaired, in this case because Petrovic died in a car crash at the age of 28.

It bothers me so much after all these years that I never had the opportunity to sit with him and go through our problems that we had. Before everything happened, we were roommates on the [Yugoslavian] national team. We had the same goals and we supported each other for the first couple years of the NBA. Basically, we opened the door for all those internationals because we had some trust as European players. Before, it was very tough to break through.

That relationship was ripped apart by the war that eventually divided Yugoslavia. Petrovic was Croatian, Divac Serbian. That left them on the opposite sides of ugly feelings and actions that were not of their creation, but a gulf they could not bridge. That may have changed eventually, had Petrovic’s life not been cut short on a German highway.

War, what is it good for?

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