Nemanja Bjelica has officially returned to Crvena Zvezda Meridianbet Belgrade, 13 years after leaving the club. Bjelica (2.09 meters, 35 years old) spent last season with Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, where he averaged 2.7 points and 2.1 rebounds in seven appearances in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. An injury meant that Bjelica could only make his second Fenerbahce debut in Round 24, having first played for the club between 2013 and 2015. Bjelica, who has signed a one-year deal at Zvezda, is the Serbian side's 10th signing this summer.
Crvena Zvezda brings Nemanja Bjelica back home
Becoming the EuroLeague MVP
Bjelica, who began his professional career with Traiskirchen Lions in Austria in the 2007-08 season before joining Zvezda in the summer of 2008, has earned plenty of accolades in his basketball career since leaving the Serbian club in 2010. Back then, he moved to Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, where he got his first taste of EuroLeague basketball. It took him a little while to get going, but in the 2012-13 season – his third at Baskonia – he truly announced himself, averaging 9.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steal as the Spanish side reached the EuroLeague Playoffs.
Those performances at Baskonia caught the attention of Fenerbahce, which didn’t hesitate in signing Bjelica. In Istanbul, Bjelica continued to improve his statistics and ended up securing the EuroLeague MVP, having posted 12.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.3 steals as Fenerbahce reached the 2015 Final Four. That season, 2014-15, he was also named to the All-EuroLeague First Team.
An NBA champion and his EuroLeague return
Just like what happened at Baskonia, Bjelica's displays with Fenerbahce saw him earn another move, this time to the NBA. He spent the following seven years with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Sacramento Kings, the Miami Heat and the Golden State Warriors, which is where he became an NBA champion in the 2021-22 campaign.
Last summer, Bjelica made an emotional return to Fenerbahce as part of Dimitris Itoudis's revolution at the Turkish club, but a calf injury prevented him from ever rediscovering his MVP-level performances from the 2014-15 season. Nevertheless, his return to the floor at Ulker Sports and Event Hall – and the standing ovation he received – will never be forgotten by Bjelica, who now gets the chance to return to the city of his birth, Belgrade.
Zvezda fans have been incredibly excited about all of the club's transfer activity this summer and the return of Bjelica is just the cherry on top of the cake. If he can stay healthy, Bjelica – a key contributor off the bench in Golden State's 2022 NBA title success – could be just what Zvezda needs to make the EuroLeague Playoffs.