Bogdan Bogdanovic considered not playing in the Atlanta Hawks' Wednesday night game against the Orlando Magic.
Like other members of the NBA, he heard the news about the sudden death of Dejan Milojević, a fellow Serbian and friend of the Hawks guard. The Golden State Warriors assistant coach died after suffering a heart attack. Milojević was 46.
"Like everyone else in Serbia, we couldn't believe the news," Bogdanovic said via ESPN. "Because that guy was a beast. Always positive.
"I was thinking about not showing up tonight, when I couldn't sleep and I was out of my routine. But then I was like, he would not want me to do that."
Even though Bogdanovic was never coached by Milojević, the two did spar on the court multiple times and developed their relationship over the years.
Milojević set an example for what it meant to be a professional player while staying true to his core values of family and being a global representative of Serbia. As such, Bogdanovic said he decided the best way to honor his friend was to play.
Though he doesn't remember much of the Hawks' 106-104 win over the Magic or the 12 points that he scored, he did what his friend would've wanted him to do. Even if he had to do so with a lump in his throat.
"He was a great player, but he never chased his career," Bogdanovic said. "He always wanted to live a family lifestyle with his kids in the good cities. He never chased money. I feel that's a great example for everyone.
"He believed that if you don't like your life, there is no way you can perform in your job, you cannot maximize your job. You cannot maximize your potential if you're not happy in your life because sometimes people value more their jobs and some other stuff."
Milojević was a star in the Adriatic League as a 6-foot-7 power forward. He won three consecutive MVP awards from 2004 to 2006.
He began his coaching career in Serbia, and had the opportunity to work with NBA champion and two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic in their native country before his ascension. Milojević joined the Warriors staff in 2021. Milojević later worked with Hawks assistant Igor Kokoskov as an assistant coach for the Serbian national team.
"It's tragic," Hawks coach Quin Snyder said. "They were close, very close. I know how difficult it is for him right now ... his sense of loss."
Outpouring of support from around the NBA
While Bogdanovic shared a countryman bond with Milojević, the late assistant was widely mourned by former colleagues and players around the league.
The Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Hawks, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans, Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors all held a moment of silence for him.
Sacramento Kings coach Mike Brown, previously an assistant coach with Golden State, released a statement addressing Milojević's sudden passing.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver also extended his condolences in a statement released on X, formerly Twitter.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement today regarding the passing of Golden State Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojević: pic.twitter.com/Ft6akrEZHr
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) January 17, 2024
Brandin Podziemski, the Warriors' first-round pick in 2023, also went to social media to talk about Milojević's impact on him and how much he'll be missed.
You changed my life in such a short time. The most important thing you ever told me was to just smile! Your joy and laughs will forever be missed. Shine down on us from heaven. Rest In Peace Dejan Milojević ❤️ https://t.co/ZpHQFCQ3f4
— Brandin Podziemski (@brandinpodziem2) January 17, 2024
On Thursday morning, it was announced that Golden State's Friday game against the Dallas Mavericks would be postponed in light of Milojević's death.