MIODRAG NIKOLIC - SIJA
Miodrag Nikolic was born on August 22, 1938 in the part of Belgrade called Crveni krst, in a modest family of father Bozidar, mother Sofija and an older brother Djordje. As a boy, Sija absorbed everything that, in those post-war years, newly arrived to Belgrade: first movies, music, sports, football, rivalry between Partizan and Red Star. Among others things, he got especially interested in the new game under the hoops, which he frequently watched walking along the Kalemegdan ramparts. He would often stop to watch basketball matches, dreaming of joining the game under the hoops himself. He could not even imagine then, that his childhood dreams would very soon become reality. As Sija was day-dreaming, his parents, wishing better future for their boys, had another plans. Namely, they noticed that their younger son had musical talent. As they did not have money for piano, they bought young Sija a violin and enrolled him into a music school. Every day, young man would pack his black violin bag, go somewhere, and return two hours later to the satisfaction of his parents, who had already imagined him in a crowded hall of the Kolarac National University, shaking hands with the conductor as orchestra’s first violin. Nevertheless, Nikolic’s parents were shocked when they realized that, instead of a violin, he had a deflated basketball in his violin bag! Namely, instead of going to the music school, Sija went to Radnicki courts, where, “under the baton” of Ranko Zeravica, Borivoje Cenic and Mita Reljin, he practised basketball. His parents did not even dream that it would be exactly that “primitive game” that would make their son famous all over the world and that by playing basketball, Sija would fill halls much bigger that those at Kolarac, making his parents and the whole nation proud. Nikolic stayed in Radnicki until 1957. To the courts of the then BSK, he was first brought by one of the creators of the Yugoslav basketball, late Professor Rasa Saper. Miodrag Nikolic’s bright carrier started then. That year, BSK returned from the Serbian league and immediately, with Nikolic, recorded important placement, finishing third in the most elite state competition.
Talking about that year, Nikolic says, “We predominantly came from poor families. Great friendship removed all borders. We lived and trained as brothers in a poor club. Instead of showers, we used large tin barrel which our legendary equipment officer Milan Obradovic-Badza use to fill with water regularly. When it comes to championships, we have waited for our time to shine. It arrived soon – in 1958. We won the championship with only two defeats during the season. With excellent Korac, Gordic, Trajko and Bogomir Rajkovic and Lukic we were everybody’s nightmare…We started scoring our first 100 points. We defeated Olimpija 105:67 and Zadar 111:84, 100:82. It was a sensation for everybody, apart from us. We were on our way to Europe!” Nikolic says proudly.
Nikolic’s playing skills became noticed that year, and he received the invitation to join the national team, for which he made his debut the same year as a 19-year-old, playing at the first from his four championships. With Cosic, Korac, Daneu, Skansi, Trajkovic and friends, Nikolic won two silver medals, at European Championship in 1961 and in World Championship in 1963, as well as one bronze at the European Championship in 1963.
Nikolic’s career as a player finished too soon, in 1965, when he endured serious leg injury in Belgrade Fair Hall 3, playing against Olimpija from Ljubljana within the winter league. This injury prevented Nikolic from being in the team which was to leave for Madrid the next morning to play against Spanish champion at the Champions Cup. Crowned with glory, but due to injury which prevented him from playing a few more seasons in the jersey of the club and the national team, Nikolic continued his professional career in Turkey (Izmir, Istanbul), only to later devote himself to the coaching career, working mostly for the national teams from the Arabian Peninsula (Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait).
Miodrag Nikolic-Sija will remain remembered as one of the pioneers of the Yugoslav basketball, a player who has been among the first in the region to properly perform jump shot, player who, with his virtuosity and elegance, outperformed many of his contemporaries – a man whose contribution to the establishment of the Yugoslav basketball is immeasurable.