Mirza Teletovic Will Look to Overcome Adversity, Again


The Milwaukee Bucks have officially reported that Mirza Teletovic will be sidelined indefinitely with pulmonary embolism (blood clots) in both lungs. This is not the first occurrence of this condition, as Teletovic missed the end of the 2014-15 season for the Brooklyn Nets with this same condition.


But if anyone can overcome a strike of adversity, it is Teletovic, whose childhood was chock-full of misfortune and difficulty.

Mirza was just seven years old when the Balkan wars broke out in Bosnia that claimed the lives of over 250,000 Bosnians including some of Teletovic’s family and close friends. His home city, Mostar, was victim to an 18-month siege, rendering Teletovic and his family helpless as they lived in what was essentially a battlefield.

Mirza’s account of the situation depicts the sheer brutality that he lived through:

“First you start seeing that there’s no food, then grenades come down, the whole city is shaking, and you hear people screaming. Every day, your parents come in and say ‘our neighbor died, our cousin died. Always somebody dying. One day, I asked my mother, ‘Is anybody alive?’ It was very, very rough for us.”- Teletovic told The Association

In the midst of danger and statewide turmoil, Mirza turned to the only thing he knew at the time: Basketball.

As he puts it:

“I used to wake up at six o’clock in the morning and go to the basketball court. I wouldn’t come home until 11 or 12 o’clock at night. You don’t know the situation at that time. You don’t even have shoes. And all my friends and me are playing and then you hear the sirens like the grenades start falling down and just run to your house and hide. If I have to die, I die. For basketball, I will do anything.”

The level of dedication that Teletovic exhibited in the nucleus of such danger is astounding.

Any journey to the NBA is wildly impressive. The countless hours of practice and endless sacrifice it takes to become a professional athlete is widely respected. But undergoing this journey while grenades are raining down on your home city is just awe-inspiring. He literally risked his life for the game of basketball.

When the war ended in 1995, Mirza continued his basketball journey, signing with Serbian professional team Sloboda Tuzla at just 15 years old. He continued to improve and bounce around Europe until 2012, when the Brooklyn Nets offered him a three-year deal, and the rest is history.

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Mirza, who hasn’t played since November 7th, has already missed the last month following arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage in his left knee.

Teletovic was having an outstanding year shooting the ball before the knee injury, hitting 46.7% of his three pointers, putting him at 9th in the entire league in 3-point percentage. His ability to knock down the three ball has been extremely valuable to the Bucks who have been plagued by the injuries to a number of other role players including Tony Snell (knee), Matthew Dellavedova (knee), and Jason Terry (calf strain).

Teletovic’s condition however, is far scarier than his teammates.

This disorder is believed to be the same one that essentially ended Chris Bosh’s career after it was deemed too unsafe for him to take the court with blood clots. While pulmonary embolism can normally be managed, the lack of oxygen supply due to the blood clot poses a heightened risk when combined with strenuous physical activity.

Back in January of 2015, Teletovic exited a game against the Clippers with severe shortness of breath. He was taken to a local hospital, where a CT scan revealed pulmonary emboli. Knowing this information, Teletovic’s knee injury could’ve been a blessing in disguise, as this lung condition was rediscovered as a result. If he would’ve had another in-game episode, who knows the possible life threatening complications that could’ve resulted.

This is just the latest chapter of adversity that Teletovic will have to endure, only this time, he will have to go endure it without playing the game he loves. According to the Bucks, following a 10-day rest period, Teletovic will begin his supervised rehabilitation program and updates on his condition will be provided when appropriate. While there is no cure for this condition, the typical medication for blood clots is blood thinners, which put users at a risk of heavy bleeding during physical contact. This is not an ideal scenario for any NBA player, however, who encounter physical contact on a nightly basis.

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It will be a long road back for Teletovic, but as Mirza put it in 2015, growing up in war-ridden Bosnia put things into perspective:

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I look at it like that,” he said. “What happens to your life, you’ve got to trust in God and keep fighting. That’s what I did both times – during the war and the blood clots.”

It is difficult to assign any sort of timeline to a condition like this due to the severity and rarity of it. And as awesome as it would be to have Teletovic back, his livelihood comes before sports, and after living through a war, Mirza isn’t taking anything for granted. As for Bucks fans, all you can do is hope and pray for a speedy recovery while acknowledging that some things are just bigger than basketball.


About Logan Collien

From Madison, WI Twitter: @lcollien

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