An unlikely friendship: LDS scholar Hugh Nibley and BYU basketball star Kresimir Cosic (+video)

Published: Thursday, Jan. 31 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

Kresimir Cosic during an interview with Alex Nibley.

Alex Nibley

He was a big man who could handle the ball long before LeBron James took the court. Cougar fans flooded the Marriott Center to see him long before the start of Jimmermania.

Kresimir Cosic had it all. He was a 6-foot-11 center who had the ability to dribble the ball and entertain a crowd. But one friend he made in Provo, a man who may have know the basketball star as well as anyone, never attended a game played by the famous Yugoslavian native.

Religious scholar and BYU professor Hugh Nibley, well-known in his own right, met with Cosic frequently and eventually baptized him, all along forming a unique friendship that lasted the rest their lives. As somewhat of a spiritual mentor, Nibley regularly answered Cosic's questions regarding gospel topics, helping Cosic establish his own testimony.

Cosic came to Provo, Utah, to play basketball at BYU, not knowing he would be enveloped by a bunch of Mormons and isolated from any liquor stores.

Although Cosic had an endless number of fans and a spot on the basketball team, he soon decided it was time for him to leave and go back home. Around that time, Cosic had become close friends with Nibley's daughter, Christina Nibley Mincek, while she was a student at BYU. Mincek was engaged to Cosic's roommate.

Eventually, Mincek directed Cosic to her father.

"He said that for some reason he knew that he needed to be there (Provo)," said Mincek, who now resides in Florida. "He said, 'I used to dream about those mountains and I couldn't tell people about it because they would just laugh.' I told him that my father definitely had feelings, visions or dreams like that and that he should talk to him."

Nibley's ability to speak several languages, including Aarabic, assisted in his study of LDS scripture. He completed more than 150 scholary works and contributed much to the study of the Book of Mormon, especially through his book "Lehi in the Desert; the World of the Jaredites; There Were Jaredites."

Mincek remembered talking with Cosic for hours regarding her LDS faith and leaving him with a plan to go speak to her father.

"It was like a light had switched on in his head," Mincek said. "It had just happened right then that he realized he was supposed to be there from a religious standpoint."

According to Mincek, Nibley and Cosic quickly became friends and both felt as if they had known each other before. In a never-before-published interview conducted and provided by Alex Nibley, Hugh Nibley's son and a digital media professor at Utah Valley University, Cosic is asked about his meetings with Hugh Nibley.

"I can't tell you about the first day, but I do know I came here (to the Nibley house) many times with Christina and most of our talks, which took place in his office, were kind of personal and nice," Cosic said during the interview.

It was in the Spring of 1971, Cosic's sophomore year, when he first visited Hugh Nibley and set up a schedule to visit regularly.

"I had certain unsolved questions that I wanted to know the answers and it just happened that that was when I needed him," Cosic said. "He answered all my questions."

He also regularly joined the Nibley family on Monday nights for family home evening.

"Surprisingly to me, my father was very receptive of him," Mincek said. "My father accepted him more than I expected because he (Cosic) was not exactly the perfect role model when I met him."

At the time, Cosic had a difficult time adhearing to the BYU Honor Code, according to Mincek. He would only eat red meat and pepperoni pizzas, and would end up chugging it all down with several beers. But after Cosic began to investigate the LDS faith through his discussions with the scholar, his attitude and appetite began to change drastically.

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