Dragan Bender is among the few Croatian professional basketball players repping in the NBA. He joined the NBA in 2016 after four years of playing in Europe including for Isreal’s best team Maccabi Tel Aviv. Bender had been on the radar of NBA coaches for a long time and when he declared for the 2016 draft, he was selected as the 4th overall pick by the Phoenix Suns. His versatility in addition to his gigantic 7 feet height makes him a force to reckon with.
Dragan Bender Biography (Age)
Dragan Bender was born on the 17th of November, 1997 in Čapljina, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was raised by his parents in Split, Croatia where he played basketball alongside his older brother Ivan Bender. Dragan started out training at the basketball academy of Nikola Vujčić a former professional basketball player who would become his guardian. Nikola Vujčić is now the general manager of Isreali powerhouse basketball team Maccabi Tel Aviv.
As a young boy, Dragan idolized Toni Kukoč, a former Croatian NBA player. He followed in the footsteps of his idol by beginning his professional career at KK Split. Bender also looked up to Šarūnas Jasikevičius of the EuroLeague. Dragan improved very rapidly at his game and soon signed with another Croatian side, KK Kaštela. The team played in the nation’s second-best league and Dragan would lead them to gain promotion to the country’s top league, the A-1 Liga. He briefly played for the KK Cedevita before Maccabi Tel Aviv came calling for his services in 2014. The Isreali team signed him to a 7-year contract.
Dragan was loaned to Ironi Ramat Gan in the 2014/2015 season in order to gain more playing time. He made his debut for Tel Aviv in the Israeli Premier League on October 11, 2015. Dragan Bender would come to help the side win two back-to-back Israeli State Cups in 2015 and 2016.
The B-baller began playing for the Croatian national side in 2012 starting with the Under-16 team at the 2012 FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship. By 2014, he was promoted to the Croatian national Under-18 team. He featured for his side at the 2014 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship in Turkey where he turned the heads of many international scouts, especially from the NBA. From then on, many NBA coaches had him on their radar.
Bender missed a chance to play with his national side during the 2015 FIBA Under-19 World Cup in Crete, Greece due to his endorsement deal with Adidas. As part of the clause on his deal, Bender was not to play in a kit that wasn’t made by Adidas. On the other hand, his team’s jersey was made by Nike’s Jordan Brand and the team obliged that all players wear the Nike kit. As a result, Bender had to respect the terms of agreement on his contract and sit out the tournament.
Adidas later had to make a logoless pair of shoes for him to play with his club side Maccabi Tel Aviv who had a kit deal with Nike’s Jordan brand.
In 2016, Bender declared for the 2016 NBA draft and was selected 4th overall by the Phoenix Sun who bought out his $1.3 million contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv. He was promoted to the Croation senior national team in 2017.
Bender was born to Croatian parents; Bernada and Rafo Bender. Both of his parents have been very supportive of his basketball career. His family member best known to the media is his older brother Ivan Bender who is two years older than him. He was born on the 18th of August, 1993.
Dragan and Ivan played together at Nikola Vujčić’s basketball academy when they were 12 and 14 years old respectively.
Ivan played college basketball for the University of Maryland’s varsity basketball team, the Maryland Terrapin. Like his brother, Ivan stands at over 2 m tall and plays as a forward. He sat out the rest of the 2017 college season after tearing his meniscus in his right knee in a late 2017 game against Maryland-Baltimore County.
Dragan’s Height, Weight and Measurements
Bender’s height measures exactly 7 feet 1 inch which is the same as 2.16 m. He weighs 225 lb (102 kg) and his wingspan measures 2.18 m. Dragan Bender has dark brown eyes and brown hair.