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

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  • Osgrath Provo, UT
    Feb. 3, 2013 11:17 p.m.

    I toured through Yugoslavia in the spring of 1972 with a BYU study abroad group. We quickly discovered the status that Kresimir Cosic had in that country. The citizens obviously felt repressed - they refused to talk about the government and always seemed to be looking over their shoulders; I imagine it would have been difficult for a lesser celebrity to bring the Church to that country at that time. But whether in a knitting shop (the girls in the program spent their time in the bus doing petit point or in a disco, all we had to do is mention Cosic and ever person could recite the fact that he played for BYU in Provo, in Utah, in America. I doubt he ever had to pay for a meal in a restaurant.

    I only got to talk to him one time, when I was at the exit desk in the BYU library, but he was definitely just a regular guy who clearly did not take himself too seriously.

  • Balan South Jordan, Utah
    Feb. 2, 2013 10:05 p.m.

    My favorite basketball player of all time. I will never forget this 6'11" giant leading the fast break, many times finishing it with his patented between-the-legs layup - all it a day when that sort of thing didn't happen. He was an absolute joy to watch.

    I heard similar stories about his "habits" while at BYU, but for him to do a complete 180 and become the advocate for the Church that he was makes him one of my favorite people of all time! Truly a giant amongst men.

  • Logan Palmer, AK
    Feb. 2, 2013 1:07 p.m.

    Most people will never understand the magnitude of what Kreso did for the church in Yugoslavia. He was perhaps the greatest example of fearless missionary zeal I have ever known. I honestly think he and Paul had a lot in common. He gave up the fame of the world to go back home and build the church. My companion and I got to pickup the first copies of the BOM that he had paid to have translated and printed. I miss him...

  • MarkMAN West Columbia, TX
    Feb. 2, 2013 10:50 a.m.

    It was the summer of 1974, I think. I was serving in the Alabama-Florida Mission. While out tracking one day in Ponte Vedra Beach, one of the doors opened with the comment that she was a member. I could see in the background a tall handsome individual. I knew immediately that it was Cosic. I had watched him play a lot of games in the new Marriott Center in 1971-72. We were invited in and talked for an hour or more with Kresimir, Christina, and her husband. What a delight? What an experience? It was clear that something important was about to happen, else why would such a star come to such a strange place? He told us that he knew that he needed to be at the Y.

    Mark Mansius

  • iron&clay RIVERTON, UT
    Feb. 2, 2013 9:20 a.m.

    I am sure Cosic gained important insight into the fact that Joseph Smith is not just a Prophet but a Seer and a Revelator as manifested by the Pearl of Great Price translation of the Book of Abraham.
    Hugh Nibley has enlightened many who specifically have studied Egyptology and heiroglyphics.
    The essence of the papyrus Book of Abraham translation by Joseph Smith as Nibley explains is that the Egyptians were trying to conterfeit the true endowment that was given to Abraham and Sarah by authorized Priesthood holders in the Temple at On.

  • TheNun Granstville, UT
    Feb. 2, 2013 7:13 a.m.

    I smiled when reading this article about Kresimir Cosic. I was in high school during his years at byu and we watched many of his games in person. He truly was fun to watch, and looking back he was comparable to magic johnson, and did all of the no-look passes and amazing ball-handling feats at nearly 7 feet tall.

    I think one can sum up his life by saying: "many are called, but few are Cosic".

  • NT SomewhereIn, UT
    Feb. 1, 2013 3:33 p.m.


    My thoughts exactly - two great men.

  • Mrs TAP Bountiful, UT
    Feb. 1, 2013 2:47 p.m.

    Beautiful story...well-written article. Thank you for brightening my day!

  • eastcoastcoug Danbury, CT
    Feb. 1, 2013 2:01 p.m.


    Cosic was THE best BYU basketball player ever. Hands down.

  • eastcoastcoug Danbury, CT
    Feb. 1, 2013 1:58 p.m.

    I remember watching Cosic while sitting on folding chairs on the track of the old Fieldhouse, then in the new Marriott Center. Cosic was the reason we filled the place to the rafters (unheard of then around the country to have 20k+ at a college game).

    In the early '80's we were touring in Italy and crossed the border into Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav border guards were not eager to grant us visa's until I brought up the fact that I had "gone to the same university as Cosic". They said, "BYU? Utah?" From then on it was all smiles and best buddies. When we crossed back over a few hours later, they waved cheerfully and smiled.

    Cosic was also a huge pillar of the church in Italy, serving as branch president in Bologna where he scored 40 points in the Italian League championship - thereafter known as "Signor Quaranta". The members there loved him like a father figure. Easily the most globally impactful person to pass through BYU in my lifetime.

  • Flashback Kearns, UT
    Feb. 1, 2013 10:51 a.m.

    Nibley and Cosic. Two giants (no pun intended).

  • Central Texan Buda, TX
    Feb. 1, 2013 8:27 a.m.

    As CougarColby points out, it is important to remember Cosic decided to forego an NBA career so he could return to Yugoslavia and introduce the gospel into that country. We should remember that the country was under communist rule at the time. My son served a mission in Croatia, spending most of his time in Zadar where Cosic spent his formative years. Cosic was Mr. Basketball there as throughout the country and region. Cosic led Yugoslavia to two silver medals and a GOLD before and after his time at BYU.

    Not long ago the first church-built chapel was dedicated in Zagreb, which can trace its beginnings to Bro. Cosic.

  • CougarColby Fort Benning, GA
    Jan. 31, 2013 1:54 p.m.

    This man has done so much more than this article articulates. What NDM mentioned is only the half of it! I served my mission in Slovenia (borders Croatia to the north) and his presence and name alone contributed to numerous lessons. His legend in the former Yugoslavia is comparable to any superstar we have in our day! He was a sure locked 1st round draft pick, many thought he would go to Los Angeles, but decided it was more important to start the gospel back home in Yugoslavia. He gave up potentially millions. He is quite an inspiration!

  • MJB Tooele, UT
    Jan. 31, 2013 12:50 p.m.

    I remember that the first baptism performed in the old Yugoslavia was while I was on my mission in Italy. One of my fellow missionaries at the time was priviledged to perform the baptism. He was serving as the branch President in the northeast of Italy and went in to make sure things were done correctly. It was an amazing thing to see happening at that time. If I remember right, it was in the latter part of 1972.
    Great story to hear about once again.

    Jan. 31, 2013 11:31 a.m.

    NDM, Maybe the story doesn't include everything you describe because it is a focussed essay, but this wonderful man would be a great subject for a biography. Any good writers out there who cvould provide such an appealing volume?

  • Laura M. Warburton Huntsville, UT
    Jan. 31, 2013 8:58 a.m.

    @NDM - thank you for the update. It put everything into perspective.

  • toosmartforyou Farmington, UT
    Jan. 31, 2013 7:49 a.m.

    He was fun to watch! When he did his little shuffle of the feet in mid-air as he was passing the ball, it fooled more than one official into calling a traveling violation the first time they saw it. I heard that once he was using some bad words in his native language aout a call against him and the official replied back in the same language to "watch your tounge." That surprised him so he kept quiet and played harder. BYU ended up winning the game.

    I have read about his remarkable missionary efforts in his homeland and heard the details that were omitted about how his baptismal clothes were made and both of those accounts are fascinating.

    As I reflect back on it, I am happy I was a fan during that time period.

    Thanks for the additional insights to two great men's lives.

  • NDM Vienna, Austria
    Jan. 31, 2013 7:19 a.m.

    Lovely story. I would like to have seen mention of Cosic's role in founding the Church in communist Yugoslavia; his translating the Book of Mormon into Croatian with the help of a Catholic priest; and a mention of his diplomatic career. The reason he died in Baltimore (Maryland, not Massachusetts) was that he was a high-ranking diplomat at the Croatian embassy in Washington, DC at the time. Also, most readers may not know how to pronounce his name. It's KRESH-i-meer CHO-sitch, not "ko-sick." Thanks for a nice portrait of a fascinating man.

    Jan. 31, 2013 7:19 a.m.

    Well written. A great story, effectively written to tug at the heart strings.

  • sls Columbia, MO
    Jan. 31, 2013 6:37 a.m.

    Cosic was one of the greatest basketball players ever.