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FIBA and Basketball Federation of Serbia pay tribute to Stankovic

BELGRADE (Serbia) - A spiritual home of basketball, Belgrade is an ideal city to host one of this week's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQT), with the eventual winner joining the 12-team field in Tokyo shortly.

Belgrade is famous for many reasons when it comes to basketball. It's a city of legendary players and coaches, and some of the most influential men ever involved in the sport. Among them was the late FIBA Secretary General Emeritus Borislav Stankovic, whose unwavering commitment to basketball helped it reach new heights.

On an official trip this week, FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis paid tribute to FIBA Secretary General Emeritus Borislav Stankovic and visited the Belgrade New Cemetery and laid flowers at the grave of Stankovic, who passed away on March 20, 2020. This trip had been postponed due to the pandemic.  

Stankovic, who served as FIBA Secretary General from 1976 to 2002 and then as FIBA Secretary General Emeritus until his death, left a lasting impression on basketball, raising the standards of club and international competition around the world.

Born in 1925, in the city of Bihac, he played for Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) from 1946 to 1948, winning two national titles, and then suited up for two other Belgrade clubs, Zeleznicar and Partizan. From 1948 to 1953, he played 36 times for Yugoslavia's national team. Stankovic played in the first game of the inaugural FIBA Basketball World Cup in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1950.

He was a successful coach, leading OKK Beograd to four national league championships. Stankovic has the distinction, too, of being the first foreign coach to lead a team to the Italian title, something he did with Cantu in 1968.

As Secretary General of FIBA, Stankovic worked to build bridges between the East and the West in a politically challenging environment and played a prominent role in ushering in a new era by helping professional players gain entry to the biggest national-team competitions – the ground-breaking involvement of NBA players at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games a notable example.

While at the Belgrade New City Cemetery, Zagklis also passed through the Alley of Greats and visited the resting places of Yugoslavian basketball legends Radivoj Korac and Trajko Rajkovic, and went to the place where Aleksandar Nikolic is buried.

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Zagklis also visited the home of the OKK Beograd Club before ending up at the Basketball Federation of Serbia (KCC), where he presented a plaque, one dedicated to Stankovic, to its Secretary General, Zlatko Bolic, with the wish for it to be placed at the KCC's new training center once it is complete. Stankovic served for a period as Secretary General of the Yugoslavian Basketball Federation.

"It's a great honor for me to be able to pay tribute this week to our beloved Secretary General Emeritus Borislav Stankovic. A visit to Belgrade always serves as a reminder of what this city has meant to basketball, from the players, coaches, and fans to the people who helped its growth, like Borislav Stankovic," Zagklis said. "Basketball is a part of the fabric of the country overall and especially here in the capital, which is currently staging one of the four FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. We thank the Basketball Federation of Serbia for hosting the competition and putting on a wonderful event. I also would like to offer special congratulations to Serbia for winning the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2021 in Valencia. It is a truly special team that no doubt inspired others with its performance and we're excited to see them play at the upcoming Olympics."

Serbia will know if their men's team has earned a ticket to Tokyo by Sunday. The Dominican Republic, Italy, Philippines, Puerto Rico and Serbia are all playing at the famous Aleksandar Nikolic Hall and trying to make it to Japan, with OQTs also being staged in Canada, Croatia and Lithuania.

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The week finished with the celebration of Borislav Stankovic's life and his contribution to basketball with the premiere of a documentary which is based on his autobiography titled 'The Game of My Life'. The documentary is co-produced by the KCC, FIBA, and Serbian national TV (RTS) and was filmed in 10 different locations in Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Switzerland, and Italy.

The event took place at Belgrade's Kombank Hall and was attended by FIBA First Vice President and FIBA Asia President, Sheikh Saud Ali Al Thani and FIBA Vice President and FIBA Europe President, Turgay Demirel, pictured above.