EL SEGUNDO – Through a door he helped open for players from all over the world, Vlade Divac exited from basketball Monday, following 16 seasons in which his greatest assist came as an ambassador for the game. The last of the first wave of European stars to play in the NBA, Divac announced his retirement at the Lakers’ practice facility and accepted a job that should keep him in the organization for years to come. The Lakers hired Divac to work in a still-to-be defined capacity, most likely as a European scout. Divac could also be a trail blazer again – as the first European-born former player to work as a coach or general manager. “It’s not a far-fetched concept at all that Vlade could one day be a front-office manager or a coach in the NBA,’ Kupchak said. Divac played in only 15 games last season for the Lakers due to back problems. He suffered a herniated disc during a September workout, underwent back surgery in January, but never could get his back to fully cooperate. “With the injury that I had, it just wasn’t fun,” Divac said. “I knew if I didn’t have fun, I couldn’t play my best.’ Ross Siler, (818) 713-3610 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “It was a great ride for me,” Divac said. “I met a lot of people, traveled all around the world. Now I have more time to spend with my family. And I’m sure my life after basketball is going to be, hopefully, even better.” He was a fan favorite everywhere he went, the only exception when he flopped to the court in a visiting arena. But Divac more importantly was a pioneer in a game that now can be seen on television in nearly every country on the globe. On the day he retired, the NBA could put into numbers the effect Divac had on the game. When he came to the Lakers from the former Yugoslavia in 1989, the league could count 25 players from 19 countries on its rosters. By Divac’s final season, the NBA was populated by 81 players from 35 different countries. The second generation of European players, including Divac’s close friend Peja Stojakovic, already has come to the league. “He just showed that nothing is impossible for us overseas,” Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic said. Divac retired with a unique place in league history, despite never winning a title. He was the center to replace Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and then Shaquille O’Neal in the Lakers’ lineup. If not for Divac being traded to Charlotte in 1996, the Lakers might not have been able to draft Kobe Bryant. Then in Sacramento, Divac helped turn around the fortunes of the Kings after several losing seasons.