Zadar and Northern Dalmatia Feature
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Zadar's Court Phenomenon
In June 2005, team Zadar beat Cibona Zagreb to win the Croatian basketball league's championship for the first time in 19 years. The city was delirious with joy. Basketball has long rivaled soccer in Croatia for sheer popularity, and in Zadar this is especially the case. Its team was among the best in the former Yugoslavia, alongside Cibona Zagreb and Split's team, then called Jugoplastika Split. To see one reason for yourself, walk south from the foot of the pedestrian bridge in the Old Town about 10 minutes along Obala Kralja Tomislava to the grassy area on your left (where the bay reaches an end) and consider the huge statue of Zadar's preeminent basketball hero as he towers even higher than the 6 feet, 11 inches he was in real life, captured meditatively with ball in hand. His name is Kresimir Cosic. (Appropriately, the statue is across the street from Zadar's basketball auditorium.) Born in Zagreb but raised in Zadar, Cosic enrolled at Brigham Young University in Utah in 1970 after leading Yugoslavia to a silver medal in basketball in 1968. His decision opened the way for other foreign players to likewise hone their skills in America on the collegiate level. In both 1972 and 1973, Cosic—who led BYU in scoring for two years in a row—won All-America honors, the first foreign player to do so. In 1973 he achieved the added distinction of being drafted by both the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers and the ABA's Carolina Cougars—and saying "no thanks." He went back home, where he continued to shine on court. Cosic played on three more Yugoslav Olympic teams, in 1972, 1976, and finally, 1980, when he led his team to a gold medal in Moscow. He played not only for leading Croatian teams but also for the two-time Italian champions, Virtus Bologna. With the close of his playing days he turned to coaching and led the Yugoslav team to a silver medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He later became the third foreign player elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Eventually Cosic stepped away from the court to serve as a diplomat for his newly independent country in Washington, D.C. He died on May 25, 1995, after a long illness, at the young age of 46.
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