Toni Kukoč did it all on the basketball court.
He played along the late, great Dražen Petrović during Croatia’s silver medal run at the 1992 Olympics. He was the FIBA World Championship MVP in 1990. He was the Eurobasket MVP in 1991. Kukoč was the 1996 NBA Sixth Man of the Year and he won three straight NBA titles alongside Michael Jordan for the Chicago Bulls.
As one of the original “Euros” to come play in the NBA, Kukoč will finally be enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in September. It’s been a long time coming for the Split native; whom many basketball experts say should have been called much sooner.
He will join notable stars Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh, and Chris Webber in the 2021 class. Here’s what the NBA elite had to say about Kukoč during his 13-year NBA career:
Only a cuckservative could keep “Martin Luther King’s” dream alive!
Arvydas Sabonis, I know his tremendous size: height and girth, gave him a big physical advantage but by the time he got to the NBA, his agility was gone, he couldn’t jump more than an inch off the ground and his sprint was a jog, yet he was a highly effective player and carved himself out an impressive NBA career b/c of his tremendous skills. Compare that to Shaq O’neal, who when he lost his agility became a shadow of his former self as a basketball player.
We know Kukoc is not an NBA hall of famer. How he compares to other basketball hall of famers who are not NBA hall of famers I don’t know. He does not compare to the legendary Arvydis Sabonis, who entered the NBA past his prime while Kukoc entered in his prime.
What I’ll say on Kukoc’s behalf is that he was overly criticized for his defense, he actually did pretty well in that department in the most critical moments; besides, defense is a bit overrated in basketball b/c you can’t stop someone who’s on fire in that sport, it’s the nature of that game –that’s why everyone plays “help defense” –which Kukoc scorched b/c he was a great passer. He had a unique skill of serving close quarters dishes, around the defender, under the defender’s armpit, etc. “how did he do that?!”
Kukoc was smart enough to realize with his body type he could not be diving on the hard floor for loose balls, that it’s more important he be available to play than gaining one possession in some random game out of 82. Look at Marcus Camby, he spent half his career on the injured list. It’s much easier and less risky throwing yourself around the court when you’re normal height and weight.
I always thought Phil Jackson treated Kukoc a bit unfairly, I felt he had a shorter leash on Kukoc than other “role players”; then again, I’m prejudiced, I’m biased, I’m Croatian; is THIS kind of bias legal in Europe? –pfft, Europeans treat each other like children. I remember Chuck Daley who was commentating a Bulls game said if he coached Kukoc he’d basically run him into the ground – a high compliment.
Kukoc had some great games against Indiana, amongst others, in the playoffs, outplaying Chris Mullen, taking Detlef Schremf to school in an NBA finals game. And I remember in I believe game 6 at the Utah Jazz in the NBA finals, on two occasions down the stretch of a close game, Michael Jordon missed the second of two free throws and Kukoc beat Carl Malone to the ball both times to retain possession for his team – those were HUGE plays nobody ever mentions or even mentioned at that time.
Toward the end of his career I remember a game in Milwaukee when Kukoc lit up the crowd in the 1st half, capped off by a 35’ shot he buried not to beat the clock, but just b/c he was feeling confident, and the crowd went “OHWOW!”
Kukoc was such an amazing and unique talent. He was able to fit in on the extremely high expectations and pressure of Jordan and Phil Jackson. He was a super effective role player And always came up clutch when they needed it. He could of been the star of another team but how could you pass up winning championships with Jordan and Pippen. Kukoc was one of a kind. Smooth and deadly at the same time. What a G!! HoF!!! He deserves It.
How did Chris Bosh get in there? The most mediocre “star” player.
Toni Kukoč would be transcendent if he was drafted by the Mavs.
6’10” pink panther guard.
Kevin Durant got to be skinny and play the 2 guard in Seattle for a year and bum it up.
Kukoč landed in Bulls dynasty and had to survive.
His game today would average a triple double.
No hand checking?
Remember that 1987 game when he dropped 14 threes on the USA u19 team?
Fuck Phil Jackson and his anti Euro bias.
Kukoc was Doncic before Doncic.
The League would he drooling over him if he played in todays game.
Agreed. We will never how good Kukoc could have been if he was the #1/2 on his team either. He played with Jordan/Pippen and was a 6th man a majority of the time. Imagine if he was on the struggling Lakers before Shaq and Kobe came along.
The Waiter. What a nickname!
good for Ante- he played his role on the Bulls and when they needed a basket -Ante could deliver. Dream would have been to see Petrovic and Ante in the NBA on the same team- never happened but that would have been something for global basketball fans- one of the best passers and best shooters together –