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Radisav Curcic And An Ode To A Terrible NBA team

Posted by Will Elmore on

By John Council

In 1992, I had a $27,000-a year-job, a $600-a-month apartment, a 20-year-old-car and a desperate need for cheap entertainment. Naturally, those circumstances forced me to become a fan of the absolutely terrible Dallas Mavericks who would finish 11-71 that season.

Why would I do such a thing?

For starters, back then there was no shiny American Airlines Center with $81 average ticket prices. But there was the aging Reunion Arena where ten bucks would buy you an upper deck seat.

The overly excited billionaire Mark Cuban was eight years away from acquiring the team and transforming it into a regular championship contender, so the seats inside the Reunion Arena were usually 2/3rds empty allowing broke fans such as myself to sit anywhere they wanted to watch really bad basketball games.

And it was before Dirk Nowitzki was on the team's roster --- the European golden boy who'd become one of the greatest power forwards to play the game and a Dallas sports legend.

Instead there was Radisav Curcic, a mysterious Serbian center who'd arrived in Dallas in late 1992 after scouting reports released to fans just listed him as a "wide body."

Curcic (pronounced CHURCH-itch), a native of Cacak, Serbia, was a former member of the Yugoslav national basketball team and had won a gold medal at the 1990 World Championship. The Mavericks grabbed him as an undrafted free agent, hoping they'd found a budget version of Vlade Divac --- a fellow Serb who was having Hall of Fame NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Radislav Curcic of the Dallas Mavericks
What Dallas got was a slow, lumbering 6 foot 10 inch player, who weighed in at 275 pounds and got into foul trouble as soon as his Nikes hit the court.

Me and my also-broke friends who joined me in the upper deck of Reunion Arena were in absolute hysterics when Curcic made his first appearance as Maverick in December 23rd game against the Golden State Warriors. After consuming a few beers, we started yelling "Chewbacca!" from the budget seats because Curcic looked to us like a wookie handling a basketball during his 21 minutes of playing time. He scored seven points and pulled down five rebounds during that game. He also picked up five fouls.

"I thought he did a very good job,' the head coach Richie Adubato told The Dallas Morning News after Curcic's NBA debut. "He gave us some rebounding, and he was real strong. We're going to go with him more.'"

None of those promises ended up happening because Adubato was fired midseason and replaced by assistant coach Gar Heard. Curcic would only play 19 more games as a Maverick before he was released. Adding further insult to injury, Curcic also got banged up in Dallas after crashing his car on the way to a game. Anybody who's driven the maze of highway interchanges required to reach the westside of downtown where Reunion Arena once stood is certainly sympathetic with the big Serb.

Keith Grant, who was the director of scouting for the Mavericks during the 1992-93 season, said that Curcic didn't take instruction well.

"Thickest hands I've ever seen," Grant told the Morning News. "If I had to give you one sentence about him, it's that he got an offensive foul every time he touched the ball because he would take his arm and hook. You'd tell him, 'They're going to call that,' and he'd give you this nod. But obviously it didn't get through."

After leaving Dallas, Curcic played for Sassari in the Italian professional league for one season before dropping a bunch of weight and catching fire as a center for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli Premier League where he was nicknamed "Chura."

In the Israeli league "Chura" had found his place.  He became unstoppable under the basket and led Maccabi to four championships before retiring from basketball in 2002.

Injury and excessive weight kept his NBA career short Curcic told Israeli journalist Gidi Lipkin after his retirement.

"In 1992 I played in Dallas. If I had lost more weight at the beginning of the season, I could have made a great career in the NBA. Besides, I had a back injury, and then I had a car accident. If it weren't for these things, who knows? Maybe I should have been more serious at the time."

Curcic became a naturalized Israeli citizen and now splits his time between Tel Aviv and Belgrade.