Bojan Dubljevic settles his feet on the line, ready to attempt the game-winning shot. Blocking out all the surrounding distractions, he focuses hard on the target. He pulls back his right arm, flicks his wrist and… bullseye! The game is over and Dubljevic celebrates!
Bullseye? Yes, literally, bullseye – this time, it's not a metaphor for the basketball hoop. Because for the Valencia Basket big man, his favorite hobby – throwing darts – bears a close resemblance to a specific aspect of his day job: shooting foul shots.
"When I started to play darts, I think it helped me shooting the basketball"
"When I started to play darts, I think it helped me shooting the basketball," he said. "Every time I want to score some number, I need to really concentrate on that number, also like free throws you need to really concentrate to make it, so it helps me. For my mind, it helps me, mentally for sure!"
He does admit, though, there is one big difference between Dubljevic on the hardwood and Dubljevic with arrows in his hand: his attitude towards his opponents. "I like to beat them, celebrate, trash talk!" he laughed. "On the basketball court, I'm not a guy who trash talks. But in the pub with darts, yeah I do!"
Dubljevic's love of darts goes back to his teenage days in his native Montenegro where he formed a formidable partnership with his brother: "Every night, or maybe four or five nights a week, we went out in my city, Niksic. We played darts in a pub and it was a lot of fun. Darts was really popular at that time in my town. I don't know why. Maybe because it's just a small town with nothing special to do. Only drink a beer and play darts! So everybody played darts.
"My brother Nikola is two years older than me and we were really good, you know. We got better and better, and soon the whole city wanted to play against us! We were a really good pair and everybody wanted to beat us. This is when I started to play really good. It was fun, but I wasn't always friendly! I was always 'I wanna win,' you know? I'm that guy. I always play to win."
Dubljevic also claims that he and his brother enjoyed a remarkable winning record: "We only lost one game! We played a lot, maybe five times a week, and we only lost once. One of the guys who beat us was Nemanja Vranjes, who plays now for Mornar Bar. They only won because we were really bad in that game! But after that, we played again and beat them!"
In recent years he hasn’t been able to play too much darts, as he explained: "None of my teammates play and we don’t have much time with all the games and the travel. So I only play when my friends or brother come to visit. Here in Valencia, I go to a pub called Liverpool, for the football team, in Ruzafa. I'm also a Liverpool fan so when I can, I go to watch a Liverpool game in the pub and play darts."
Those occasional trips to the pub also allow Dubljevic to enjoy another of his sporting passions: "I’m a fan of rugby," he said. "A really good friend of mine [Boris Mijuskovic] is the captain of rugby in Montenegro. He cheers for Wales, I'm for Ireland and my brother is for New Zealand. So when they have the Six Nations tournament and World Championships, we start to fight against each other!"
His first love, though, is the darts board, and he even joked that he might attempt to become a professional when his basketball career finishes: "Maybe when I retire, I can improve my darts, I’ll have more time. All darts players are fat boys, drinking beer. So I can do the same!"
"All darts players are fat boys, drinking beer. So I can do the same!"
To enter serious darts competitions, though, he will have to adapt his style because he does not play the ‘501’ game which is usual in tournaments. "We play darts cricket, which is a different game. You need to make three times 20, three times 19, three times 18, all the way down and then the bullseye. I played 501 sometimes, but I have more fun with cricket.
"I always start with the number 17, I don’t know why – maybe when I started to play I was good with 17, so I go directly every time to score three times the 17. And I nearly always make it."
So the next time you see Bojan Dubljevic at the foul line during the crucial stage of a game for Valencia, you know exactly what he is visualizing to help him focus and make the basket: triple 17s!