Destination » Destinacija | 79 You knowwhat, comrades, we mustn’t throw the Americans and the Russians into the same basket – said the marshal, prompting an avalanche of laughter Znate šta, drugovi, ne smemo Amerikance i Ruse da bacamo u isti koš, rekao je maršal, što je izazvalo lavinu smeha T H I S I S T HE L AND OF GOL DEN BASK E T BA L L ACES Themoon is yours, the gold is ours A total of 50 years have passed since the then Yugoslavia, today’s Serbia, became a force in basketball. It all started with 12 guys and head coach Ranko Žeravica, who arrived quietly and went straight into legend… Tekst/Words: Miodrag Dimitrijević Fotografije/Photography: Košakaški savez Srbije, Radiša Mladenović In themid-1960s, withRadivoje ‘Žućko’ Korać and IvoDaneu, Yugoslavia became a national team that finally managed to shake the dominance of the U.S.A. and the USSR in this sport. Unfortunately, fate did not permit Žućko to compete in the first world championships to be played in Yugoslavia, because he died tragically a year earlier in a car accident. His deathmarked one of the greatest tragedies for sport in the region. Korać has never been forgotten, and his teammates, for whom he was an idol, wanted to repay him in the best possible way – by winning gold. Head coach Ranko Žeravica decided to compile a list containing as many as 250 players, and he managed to select new members of the national squad after 15 days. Preparations for the World Cup lasted three months, and in a 22-page report on theWorld Championships, the coach recorded that Yugoslavia had played 145 matches, winning 117 and losing 28. e first match against Italy (66:63) was watched by the patron of the championships, SFRY President Josip Broz ‘Tito’. Back then statesmen also competed through sporting successes, not only in space race programmes or weaponry. It was essential for Yugoslavia to gain its own world champions in a sport that had been dominated for years by the U.S.A. and the USSR. We emerged victorious against the Italians thanks to the great play of Krešimir Ćosić (part of the tournament’s ideal fivesome), and then falling in turnwere Brazil (80:55), Czechoslovakia (94:84) and Uruguay (63:45), which meant that according to the system of competition used at the time (round robin), the title of world champion would be decided on the basis of the match between the U.S. and Yugoslavia. According tomany assessments, this was the key match for Yugoslavia andmarked the moment when it really became a land of basketball. e leaping Americans were too relaxed, with the “blues” maintaining an advantage throughout the majority of the match. Yugoslavia thus defeated the U.S. for the first time in a major competition with a score of 70:63, and thus the banner held aloft at Tivoli Hall, which reached the front pages of American newspapers, came true! e banner read “ eMoon is Yours, e Gold is Ours”, alluding to the famous American moon landing that had taken place a year earlier. at 23rd May marked the first world gold won, following a somewhat unexpected defeat at the hands of the USSR, in a match lacking much competitive importance. It wasn’t in the slightest bit coincidental that the championship culminated the day before 25th May and Youth Day, or more precisely the celebration of the birthday of Marshal Tito. “Tomorrow at eight o’clock in the morning you have a special flight from Ljubljana to Belgrade, where you will be awaited by comrade Tito,” noted the invitation that arrived from Belgrade. e players Legenda Ranko Žeravica na čelu zlatnih košarkaških reprezentativaca / Legend Ranko Žeravica at the head of the golden basketball team