MIAMI — The 31-year-old Goran Dragic is still in the middle of his NBA career. But his international career with the Slovenian national team is coming to a close.
Dragic, who has three seasons remaining on his current contract with the Heat, announced last week that he will be retiring from international play after this year’s EuroBasket tournament. Dragic will begin his final international competition Thursday when Slovenia opens EuroBasket with a matchup against Poland in Helsinki, Finland.
After a 74-73 win over Croatia last week in Ljubljana — Dragic’s hometown — he posted on social media in Slovenian that it would be his final home game with the national team and that EuroBasket would mark the end of his international playing career. The contest against Croatia was part of Slovenia’s warm-up schedule for the upcoming tournament.
“When I walked into Stozice on Thursday and saw the packed arena, I realized that I will be playing my last home game in front of the most beloved people in the world – my eyes started to water and my legs became heavy,” Dragic wrote, according to a translation by FIBA.
“At that moment, I remembered how proud I was to receive my first youth national team call-up, all the feelings with a gold medal around my neck at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2004 in Brno. I remembered becoming a member of the national team under coach Ales Pipan, not being able to participate in the battle for medals in EuroBasket 2009 and the privilege of playing in the historic EuroBasket 2013 at home. I still cannot believe how fast everything went. As they say, the most beautiful things are the fastest to pass, but this will forever stay in my heart.”
Dragic, who began his professional career in 2003 at the age of 17 in the Slovenian Second Basketball League with KD Ilirija, may be best known in the United States for his NBA career. But he’s also had a long and successful playing career for the Slovenian national team.
After playing a limited role for the Slovenian national team at the 2006 FIBA World Championship and the 2007 European Championship, Dragic was named to the All-Tournament team at the 2013 European Championship and was named captain of his country’s national team in 2014.
This year’s tournament will be Dragic’s fifth appearance at EuroBasket. Playing with the Slovenian national team has been a big part of Dragic’s summer routine during his NBA career, as he repeatedly said playing in the EuroBasket qualifiers last summer helped him have a standout 2016-17 season with the Heat.
Dragic has spent most of this offseason in Slovenia, as well. The Slovenian national team is guaranteed to play a minimum of five games in EuroBasket and could be playing up until Sept. 17 if it makes it to the final day of the tournament.
“Now, there is another European competition ahead of us, where I will, as will the rest of the team, give everything to make you and us happy and bring home the desired medal,” Dragic promised Slovenia in advance of EuroBasket.
The Heat begin training camp on Sept. 26, with the regular-season opener set for Oct. 18 against the Magic in Orlando.