From the Hardwood to the Silver Screen, Serbia’s Boban Marjanovic is a Global Star
LOS ANGELES -- The Philadelphia 76ers put together plenty of their own highlights during their 2019 NBA playoff run. But it was Kawhi Leonard’s bouncing, series-ending shot in Game 7 of Philly’s second-round matchup against the Toronto Raptors that stuck with Boban Marjanovic the most.
Not even a week after that disappointing loss—in what Boban regards as one of the greatest games he’s ever witnessed—the towering center was walking the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, not as a guest, but as a cast member alongside stars Keanu Reeves and Halle Berry.
Since then, Boban has signed a two-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks and spent time at home in Serbia, both relaxing and gearing up for this week's FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.
Before he switched NBA teams and took off for Eastern Europe, Boban sat down with CloseUp360's Magdalena Munao and Amir Ebrahimi over lunch at Tom's Urban in L.A. Live to discuss everything from how he came to love basketball and his hilarious relationship with former teammate Tobias Harris, to his favorite foods and what it’s like to go shopping when you’re 7’3”.
(The interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
Boban Marjanovic will be just as critical to Serbia's success at the FIBA Basketball World Cup as he was during his country's quest to qualify for the tournament. (Courtesy of FIBA)
CloseUp360: What was your first basketball experience and how old were you?
Boban Marjanovic: Eleven or 12. We opened school basketball. Somebody was joining and all my friends say, “I want to go, I want to go, I want to go.” In that time, I was, like, “Everybody go, I go, too. Me and my friends.” I come home and tell my father I want to go in basketball practice. And he was, like, "Whoa, perfect, okay, whatever you want." He dragged me to the first practice. I was there, you know, for like small meetings, like how you pass the ball, how we hold the ball, this is the basketball. At that time, I figured out, this is fun. All my friends love. We have so much fun. Some of [the kids] stopped playing, but I really enjoyed it.
CU360: At this point, are Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic really big in Serbia?
BM: Yes, they’re huge. Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic, they're huge. [Predrag] Danilovic, [Dejan] Bodiroga, Sasa Djordjevic. They were the guys who played in the NBA. It was like I was the biggest fan. Every time on the screen, I watched mostly volleyball and basketball. And I never figured out in my life at the time when I watched that, I never figured out I would be one of the basketball players and to be in the NBA, to like have a successful career.
CU360: What were your feelings after you and the Sixers lost Game 7 against the Toronto Raptors this year?
BM: To be honest, it really was a great game. I really feel bad because we didn’t win. Lucky bounce. Good shot. You can call it whatever you like, but it’s one of the best games I’ve ever watched in my life. Like, how many times have I watched a basketball bounce like that in my life? Never. Lucky shot.
CU360: You also played for the Clippers. Compare the Los Angeles fans to the Philadelphia fans.
BM: To be honest, Philly fans are much more passionate about the city. Here in LA, if you don’t play good, you get booed, like for not hustling, walking on the court. [In Philly], they understand when people give energy on the court. They understand. I think one of the biggest help is, when we play at home, we have such an advantage. But when I play in LA, Clippers fans are amazing, too. Every time I step on the court, from both cities, I hear that nice noise. A couple of times, they chanted my name. I hear, like, “Boban, Boban.” And I’m, like, “Wow, this is really impressive.”
CU360: How did the Tobi and Bobi relationship start?
BM: You know, nobody knows, to be honest. Started from Instagram videos. We were in Miami and somebody put [a video] on Instagram and we do the dance, the Milly Rock. Everybody see it. Everybody was, like, “Wow, this is amazing." After that, it was just a joke. We did “Chicken Noodle Soup,” too. That was even more all over social media. Then that time, we come to LA and they really want to do something with us. And that’s how everything happened. "Bobi and Tobi Show" was born. And we still must keep it now in this busy time because it was so busy because of playoffs. Now we try to do some episodes and we hope you guys enjoy like the same time before.
In Detroit, first time I met [Tobias Harris], he was a little bit on my nerves. Like, “Who is this guy?” I told him at that time, like, “Man, I really don’t like you.” I was very honest. Like for me, if I don’t like you, I tell you. I don’t have nothing against you, but, man, I really don’t like you. We were just like teammates and nothing else. Then we start to hang out more, like team dinners. Then, the video come out and then we were traded to Los Angeles. We just started to get even closer with the show and everything.
CU360: How good is the Serbian team going to be this year at FIBA?
BM: I hope it's very good. I hope so. We already have good players. It’s funny how we’re not a huge country, but we have great spirit. Everybody plays basketball. We’re so talented for basketball and volleyball, like team sports. But we now start to be good in tennis. We have the best player in the world in tennis, [Novak Djokovic]. And people start to play tennis right now. And we're getting pretty good in that.
CU360: Why do you think so many great athletes come out of Serbia?
BM: I think they just have fun. Like, how I say my friends do basketball, they want to have fun and win. You start to practice, sometimes you can be one of the best. Sometimes you figure out this is not for you, but you’re still learning moves, you’re learning your body and how to adjust to a sport.
Boban is one of five Serbian players currently in the NBA, including Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marko Guduric and Nikola Jokic. (Courtesy of FIBA)
CU360: Can you tell us about your first acting experience in John Wick: Chapter 3?
BM: I really liked it. I watched Shaq, how he did it, and it was impressive. I said, “Wow, this is amazing.” You know, Bruce Lee, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—really amazing, impressive. And I hear that they want me to be in a movie and I didn’t know how it would happen. Now, I’m really in a movie. I still don’t believe it. I had so much fun. I was, like, “Man, I can do this.” Somebody can use me for a bad guy in a movie. I really want to do that more often. I’m perfect for a love story [laughs].
CU360: What’s your favorite movie? You can’t say John Wick: Chapter 3.
BM: One of my favorite movies is White Chicks, to be honest. The second one is Gladiator. Those two movies don’t match. Oh, or Dodgeball. Dodge. Duck. Dip. Dive… and dodge.
CU360: What are your favorite foods?
BM: I like soup a lot. Philly has great food, but the practice facility has four guys who are like really professional [chefs]. Like, you know when you go to a restaurant and you say, “Let me have the chef’s special." Everything that you try from them tastes so good. I said, “Can I have something for lunch?” They say, “Okay, what do you want?” And I say, “Surprise me,” because I eat everything. And every time, they surprise me in a nice way. I enjoy all the types of taste. A restaurant is a good feeling, but these guys are really impressive. Like, I’ve never tried anything better in my life—even in the best restaurants in the world.
Boban walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of John Wick: Chapter 3 with Tobias Harris and Halle Berry. (Courtesy of Lionsgate)
CU360: Let’s talk about your style. How hard is it to find clothes that fit you?
BM: It’s easy to find the sizes in the United States than in Europe. It’s easy; they have pretty good sizes. I have a lot of choices. I can’t wear everything in this world, but like 20 percent, I can wear. Nike is my sponsor; they make great stuff. They send me a lot of shoes and I enjoy them.
CU360: What’s your favorite American slang?
BM: Dope… Or lit. Or swag. Or drip.
CU360: And what’s your favorite kind of car?
BM: You know, a minivan is not bad, to be honest. I really enjoy minivans more because you can slide the seat back and they have the automatic doors. Basically, you press a button, get in, put my seat [back] and I’m, like, “Ah, yes. This is it.”