The late Golden State Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic was such a legend in Serbia that a pregame tribute to him in Belgrade drew record-setting crowds.
Happening now at Stark Arena in Belgrade: Full capacity crowd to honor Dejan Milojević before the Partizan-Mega game.pic.twitter.com/DeiIaKbdjU— Harrison Wind (@HarrisonWind) January 22, 2024
A reported 23,000 spectators attended a tribute game for Milojevic, the Warriors assistant coach who died of a heart attack last week at age 46. Admission was free for the game between Partizan Belgrade and Mega MIS, two teams closely associated with the Serbian legend known as “Deki,” and the gym was completely packed a full hour before the tip-off.
As a player, Milojevic spent two seasons with Partizan, winning the Adriatic League MVP in both of those years. (He also won the previous season with Montenegrin team Budućnost) After his playing career, Deki spent eight years as the head coach of Mega, where he coached Nikola Jokic and turned the team into a pipeline to the NBA Draft.
The huge crowd clapped and chanted for minutes on end before the game, as well as lighting flares next to a huge mural of Milojevic.
It was an emotional and powerful tribute to the late player and coach, and also shows how intense it is to see live basketball in Serbia. No one is checking for flares and pyrotechnic devices anywhere.
Coach Steve Kerr also spoke about his friend and colleague on Monday, while wearing a shirt bearing the word for “Brother” in Serbian.
Steve Kerr speaks on Dejan Milojevic’s passing. He’s wearing a shirt that says ‘brate’ which is Serbian for ‘brother’ pic.twitter.com/23PtfCpJ5a— Shayna Rubin (@ShaynaRubin) January 22, 2024
“It’s just the saddest thing I’ve ever been a part of in the NBA,” Kerr told reporters. He added, “We watched as a team this morning the event they had in Serbia...I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like the pregame dedication from the fans and the organizations there to Deki. It was incredible. We got a better sense of what Deki meant to his countrymen, and of course what he meant to us.”
Overall it’s been a “devastating week” for the Warriors, for Milojevic’s family, and for Serbian basketball fans everywhere. But if anyone doubted how special he was to the fans in Belgrade, Monday’s incredible ceremony made it unmistakably clear.