Toni Kukoc was the basketball player from Europe who got drafted by the NBA team Chicago Bulls back in the 1990’s draft’s 2nd round. Toni Kukoc joined the Bulls before the start of the season of 1993-1994.
He played overseas with the national team of Yugoslavia as well as the national team of Croatia. During his time with these national teams, he won numerous championships and medals.
During his time in NBA as a Bulls’ player, Toni Kukoc was a really versatile basketball player. He played most of his professional career as the Bulls member.
Other than Chicago Bulls, Toni Kukoc also played for other NBA teams like Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia 76ers.
Other than this, below are the 5 more things that one must know about Toni Kukoc.
Starting a career in Europe:-
Since Toni Kukoc was 17 years old, he was playing in Europe professionally.
He helped the KK Jugoplastika to become the top league in Europe.
He held the titles of EuroLeague’s MVP and Final Four back in 1991 and 1990. Prior to being drafted by the Bulls, Toni Kukoc played for Croatian and Yugoslavian national teams.
He won the gold medals in the following competitions.
- 1985 FIBA Under-16 Championship
- 1986 FIBA Under-18 Championship
- 1987 FIBA Under-19 World Cup
- 1989 EuroBasket
- 1990 FIBA World Championship
- 1991 EuroBasket with Yugoslavia
He also went on to help the Croatian national team to win their silver medal in the Olympic games of 1992.
Start of Career with the Chicago Bulls:-
During his time with the NBA team Chicago Bulls, Kukoc had a crucial role in the team from the year 1993 to the year 2000.
During those 7 years, Kukoc managed to have an average of 14.1 points, 4.2 assists, and 4.8 rebounds. He also was the part of the 3 NBA championship teams and went on to win the Sixth Man of the Year award back in 1996 as well as to be named in the All-Rookie Team of 1993-1994 season.
Resentment in the Bulls’ locker room:-
As per ESPN reports, there was some resentment towards Kukoc from Pippen and Jordan. The reason for this resentment was Kukoc being the Jerry Krause guy, who was the no. 1 public enemy among the NBA players. Reportedly, Pippen made it hard for Kukoc over his defense. It was so hard that Jud Buechler reported to ESPN that during that era, Kukoc had it hard.
As for Kukoc, he only has the nicest of things to say about all his former Bulls’ teammates. Still, he did mention the fact that if he had got the ball more often, he would have had averaged in more points.
Kukoc told media,
“I do believe that if I had handled the ball a little bit more, I would easily have averaged about 20 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds. Still, I would never wish to change my time with the Chicago Bulls. If people say that my numbers are not great for the Hall of Fame, then I am fine with it. Any player would give up anything just to be part of those great teams. For me, it was the best time of my entire career.”
Big moment of Kukoc in NBA:-
The big moment of Kukoc which proved him to be crucial for Bulls was during the playoffs of the 1994 NBA season where Bulls played against New York Knicks.
A last-second play was drawn up by Phil Jackson for Kukoc. This led to Scottie Pippen to be sitting through the game 3’s last seconds during the semifinals of Eastern Conference.
At that time, Kukoc scored the game-winning shot. Recalling that particular moment, Kukoc said that he was not mad at Scottie Pippen for that outburst of his. He said, “It was something that just happened. Everyone has their ego. Even if someone does not play 1 minute, they have an ego. I do not take anything from Pippen for that.”
Lasting Impact of Kukoc in NBA:-
The success of Kukoc was the one thing that allowed for other European basketball stars to have a way in the NBA. These names include players like Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki, and Manu Ginobili. The current star of the Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic is the latest in the line of European players who are compared with Kukoc.
Vlade Divac said about Kukoc back in January of 2020, “Back then it was really hard for us European players to prove to anyone that we could really play well. Now half of the NBA is filled with International players.
We had to fight for this to get our way to play. But now if you take a look back at the evolution of basketball, it is more of a game that suits us. This is why Ton Kukoc is one of the most important players who changed the game for all of us.”