“Zlatibor Basket” Basketball Camp, now known as ACADEMIC BASKETBALL CAMP “PROFESSOR ALEKSANDAR NIKOLIĆ”, was established in 1976 and represents a significant milestone in basketball’s history. In the 1976 Olympic Games, women’s basketball made its debut (Montreal, Canada). There was a golden age of innovation in basketball during this time, and the Yugoslav school of basketball became the world’s second most popular model for the sport after the NBA. Due to the knowledge and experience of the school’s founders, our camp became widely recognized as the premier basketball training facility in the country, and that reputation has only grown over the years.
The idea of establishing a camp on Zlatibor was born in the summer of 1972 when Yugoslav champions Crvena Zvezda spent their pre-season on the mountain. The idea of the camp came directly from its coach Bratislav Bata Đorđević (author of the first professional program of the camp) and basketball enthusiast Mihailo Miki Pavićević.
Đorđević recounts the inspiration for the park by saying: “I was walking with Miki when I had the idea: Let’s bring the youngsters here to train throughout the summer.”
The camp’s original slogan was, “Basketball for respectable children“, with the three core concepts of the camp’s philosophy being encapsulated in just three words.
In 1976, a breakthrough year for basketball, Basketball Camp “Zlatibor Basket” opened its doors. That year marked the first Olympic appearance by female basketball players (Montreal, Canada). During that time, the Yugoslav school of basketball rose to prominence and became, next to NBA, the world’s most successful basketball ideology. Our camp, which was built on the backs of many of its first students, has become universally recognized in the world of basketball.
That summer, during our first shift at Zlatibor, Yugoslavia won a silver medal in Montreal. Over the next two years, with Professor Nikolić on the bench, Yugoslavia won two more gold medals: at the European Championship in Liège (1977) and the World Championship in Manila (1978). There is a curious parallel between the heyday of basketball and our camp, since it was around this time that Professor Nikola Nikolić, fresh off winning the world championship in Manila, took the unexpected decision to become a coach in Borac from Čačak (1978-80). It only goes to show that despite popular belief, basketball’s rise to prominence was driven by passion and emotion, not by money and influence.
It’s unlikely that any other basketball camp can match AKK “Professor Aleksandar Nikoli” in terms of the quality of its coaching staff. Aleksandar Nikolić and Ranko Žeravica, the two men credited with founding the Yugoslav school of basketball, are among the more than 20 names involved.
The long list of coaches also includes Božidar Maljković, Svetislav Pešić, Željko Obradović, Ratko Joksić, Professor Milivoje Karalejić, Professor Vladimir Koprivica, Slobodan Piva Ivković, Milan Ciga Vasojević, Slobodan Janković, Bora Džaković, Borislav Cenić, Aca Janjić, Žarko Lukajić, Miodrag Sija Nikolić, Vlada Paranošić, Borislav Reba Ćorković, Velimir Gasić, Kosta Jankov, Jovica Antonić, Aco Petrović, Zoran Sretenović, Milan Minić, Miroslav Nikolić, Dejan Srzić, Milutin Luta Pavlović, Predrag Preva Vučićević, Marijan Novović, Petar Rodić, Marina Maljković, Dragan Savić, Igor Petrović, Nemanja Neca Đurić, Goran Miljković Finac, Vlada Androjić, Dragan Simeunović, Milan Tubić, Zoran Trivan, Mirna Mitić, Filip Miladinović, Goran Miljević, Đorđe Tomić, Zoran Kovačić Čivija, Dragi Tvigi Ivković, Branko Kovačević , Vuk Stanimirović and others.
Dozens of national team members trained at our camp, including Predrag Danilović, Aleksandar Đorđević, Dejan Bodiroga, Haris Brkić, Miroslav Berić, Zoran Stevanović, Saša Obradović, Nikola Lončar, Miroslav Radošević and others.
What else was happening in the year (1976) our camp was founded?
- Boston won the NBA title with a 4:2 victory against Phoenix. Tom Heinson, now the Boston Celtics’s head coach, competed for the NBA All-Stars in 1964 in Tamšajdan against Nemanja Đurić, who would later become our camp’s head coach.
- Don Nelson (Boston) and Pat Riley (Phoenix), future top coaches, ended their playing careers in the NBA finals.
- Kareem Abdul Jabbar was the league MVP, Bob McAdoo was the best scorer, and Joe Joe White was the MVP of the finals. White played for the USA team in the final of the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico, where they crossed swords with Yugoslavia and Ranko Žeravica, who made a significant impact on the camp.
- Pete Maravić, an American basketball player of Serbian descent and one of the game’s most innovative players, was also a top-five NBA performer.
- Mobildjirgi won the 81-74 title game in the European Champions Cup (now known as the Euroleague). It was the fifth championship for the Varese squad, who had previously won the first three under Professor Nikolić (1970, 1972, 1973).
- Borislav Reba Ćorković, who later coached at our camp, was a member of Partizan’s bench when the team won its first Yugoslav championship.