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Krešimir Ćosić: Mormon Basketball Legend

Krešimir Ćosić, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was born on 26 November 1948 in Zagreb, the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Croatia. He was raised in Zadar, a city located on the Adriatic Sea. Zadar is a historical center of Dalmatia, and the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Zadar.  It is also the place where Croatian basketball was born in 1930.

Mormon Basketball Legend CosicĆosić began his basketball career in Zadar in 1965, playing for KK Zadar, a Croatian professional basketball team from the city of Zadar playing in the A-1 Liga. He eventually became a professional basketball player and represented Yugoslavia internationally. He came to the United States to play college basketball at Brigham Young University from 1971 to 1973, playing center for the team. While in college, he averaged 19.1 points a game and 11.6 rebounds a game.

After leaving Brigham Young University, he was drafted by the National Basketball Association (NBA) several times and once by the American Basketball Association (ABA). In April 1972 he was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers as the number 1 pick in the 10th round. In 1973 he was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers as the number 15 pick in the 15th round. He became the first foreign player to earn All-American honors from the United Press International in 1972 and 1973. Ćosić was also drafted by the American Basketball Association’s (ABA) Carolina Cougars in 1973 and the Boston Celtics in 1976. However, he chose to return home to Yugoslavia, where he was a national hero as a player and later, as a coach.

Ćosić was also an Olympian. He played in the 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1980 Olympic Games. He led Yugoslavia to a silver medal in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico, and a gold medal in the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. In 1970 and in 1978 he led Yugoslavia to win a pair of World Championship gold medals.

Following his playing days, he turned to coaching and led the former Yugoslav team to a silver medal in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul Korea, and two bronze medals at the 1986 FIBA World Championship and the 1987 Euro Basket. In 1991, FIBA (French: Fédération Internationale de Basket-ball) named Krešimir Ćosić as one of FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players.

In the years following basketball he worked in the United States as a Croatian diplomat at the embassy in Washington, D.C. He also helped to secure the land where the embassy now stands.

Krešimir Ćosić died in Baltimore, Maryland on 25 May 1995 after a year-long battle with a form of cancer known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 46 years of age. Even after his death his name lives on as one of the great basketball legends. Some of the honors that were bestowed upon posthumously include: (information obtained from Wikipedia – Krešimir Ćosić)

1.    In 1996 he became the third international player ever elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, the birthplace of basketball.
2.    On March 4, 2006, Ćosić became the second men’s basketball player to have his jersey retired by Brigham Young University (the other was Danny Ainge.)
3.    In 2007 he was enshrined in the FIBA Hall of Fame.
4.    The Croatian landmark formerly known as Califfi Castle now carries the name of this basketball superstar and Churchman.
5.    There is a square in Zagreb, Croatia that bears his name (Trg Krešimira Ćosića).
6.    KK Zadar home arena is named after him.

During his lifetime, Krešimir Ćosić was also a notable Church leader and missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He converted to Mormonism during his time at Brigham Young University. He was baptized by Hugh Nibley, a prominent LDS Church scholar. He later served as the LDS presiding Priesthood holder in post-communist Croatia and was instrumental in introducing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Yugoslavia. He also translated the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ) (Croatian: Mormonova knjiga (Drugi zavjet Isusa Krista)) and the Doctrine and Covenants (Croatian: Nauk i savezi) into Croatian.

Additional Resources:

Krešimir Ćosić Basketball Profile

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