MES (Switzerland) – Borislav Stankovic, the second general secretary of the International Basketball Federation, is a giant in the history of basketball.
As part of FIBA’s 90 Greatest Moments, we’ve decided to take a look back at the remarkable career of one of the most influential men in our sport.
One of the fathers of Yugoslav basketball along with Nebojsa Popovic, Radomir Saber and Aleksandar Nikolic, Stankovic made a name for himself worldwide by serving as the Secretary General of the International Basketball Federation for 26 years.
He has influenced the development of the sport in many different ways, from his work on the rules, his contributions to the establishment of first-class club competitions and his tireless commitment to raising international basketball to the level it enjoys today.
Stankovic’s influence was enormous. Here’s what former NBA Commissioner David Stern had to say about him: “No one has contributed more to the globalization of basketball than my friend Bora Stankovic.”
Stern and Stankovic in 1989, when the International Basketball Federation dropped the word “amateur”
As General Secretary, Stankovic has always been determined to bring the best players to the Olympics.
One of his main goals was to make basketball accessible to a wider audience and to democratize it. He knew that if the best basketball players took part in the Olympics, then the interest in basketball would reach new heights.
Stankovic himself was amazed at the scale of the impact of the participation of the famous American “dream team” in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, as he admitted in his autobiography “The Game of My Life” published by the Serbian Basketball Federation in 2016.
Stankovic at the 1994 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Canada
The United States, which has branded legendary players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to name a few, have won all their games by an average difference of 43.8 points, and unsurprisingly climbed to the top of the podium at the end of the first half. Competition.
But far from demonstrating the strength of Americans, their shows have captured the attention and imagination of millions of fans and young adults, who are eager to go down the same path as their idols and imitations to one day evolve on the big international stage.
From that moment on, the Olympic Games became a goal that must be achieved in order to compete with the best basketball players in the world.
“After these Olympics, millions of children around the world, fascinated by the exploits of Americans, chose to use their hands instead of their feet to play with the ball.”Stankovic comments.
Clearly, the path that led to this outcome required careful planning and execution.
Stankovic and Stern have worked hard to standardize the sport, with the ambition of ensuring that the best players participate in the major competitions. first regulation The McDonald’s Open in Milwaukee (USA) in 1987 was also a milestone, with participating teams the Milwaukee Bucks (NBA), Trassier Milan (European Champion/Italy) and the Soviet Union (one of the dominant nations in world basketball ever since). now).
Stankovic alongside MVP Michael Jordan at the 1997 McDonald’s Open
In 1988, the second edition of the McDonald’s Open was held in Madrid (Spain), but this time with the participation of four teams: Boston Celtics, Scavolini Pisaro (Italy), the national team of Yugoslavia and Real Madrid. Other editions were staged in 1989, 1990 and 1991, won respectively by the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers.
Stankovic knew very well that having the best players in the world at the Olympics would make a huge impact. Thus, in 1989, the FIBA Congress decided to remove the word “amateur” from its name and the International Amateur Basketball Federation became the International Basketball Federation.
One result of this change has been the increased participation of players from Europe and elsewhere in the NBA. Another is that American teams, which are usually favored to win the competitions they participate in, no longer succeed every time, as evidenced by the 2002, 2006 and 2019 Basketball World Cups, as well as the 2004 Olympics.
The beginnings of this development were already felt in 2000 in Sydney, when the United States came close to losing (85-83) to Lithuania in the semi-finals of the Olympic tournament. Yugoslavia then beat the USA in the 2002 Basketball World Cup quarter-finals in Indianapolis (USA), and lifted the world title a few days later. At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens (Greece), Argentina defeated the United States in the semi-finals before winning the Olympic gold. Spain was crowned world champions in 2006 and 2019, and provided impressive resistance to the Americans in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
When he passed away in 2020, at the age of 94, many posts paid tribute to Stankovic, highlighting his impact on basketball’s rise.
Aleksandar Djordjevic, former Yugoslav distributor and national team coach from 2014 to 2019 said: “Bora Stankovic was a pillar not only of basketball, but also of sport in general in the former Yugoslavia and in all the countries that were born out of it. Everyone who plays sports in this region can be forever grateful to him.
“He built the foundations of basketball, organized it, set the rules and order that allowed us to be among the best in the world for many decades.”
Stankovic studied veterinary medicine at the University of Belgrade after World War II and after his studies he was appointed as a veterinary inspector to monitor meat in the city.
Basketball has always been a big part of his life. As a student, Stankovic played basketball. He wore the Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) shirt from 1946 to 1948, and then the Zeleznicar Beograd shirt. Then he defended the colors of Partizan.
Stankovic (top, third from left) represented Yugoslavia at the opening of the 1950 FIBA Basketball World Cup
Stankovic was a Yugoslav insider at the first FIBA Basketball World Cup in 1950, which was held in Buenos Aires (Argentina). He was also a successful manager, leading OKK Belgrade to four national titles. He was also the first foreign coach to lead an Italian team to the national title, with Canto in 1968.
FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagles pays tribute to Honorary General Secretary Borislav Stankovic: “As a participant in the first World Cup match in 1950, as organizer of the first World Cup to be held in Europe (Yugoslavia, 1970) or as FIBA leader for a quarter of a century, Borislav Stankovic leaves behind an indelible mark in the history of our sport. We are forever grateful to him. For everything he did to implement tangible changes, without which the FIBA would not be what it is today.”
Basketball would not be what it is today without the leadership, determination and vision of Borislav Stankovic during his tenure at FIBA.