View Full Version : Toni Kukoc: "It looks like I'm done"

09-12-2006, 03:32 PM
Kukoc: `It looks like I'm done'
By Gary D'Amato, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MILWAUKEE - Toni Kukoc would have played another season in the National Basketball Association, but only on his terms.

He didn't want to move his family from Highland Park, Ill., so when neither the Milwaukee Bucks nor the Chicago Bulls expressed interest in signing him, he decided to end his career.

"It looks like I'm done," Kukoc said Monday after playing in the Skip Kendall Charity Pro-Am Fore Kids at Tripoli Country Club. "There are teams that want me, but I don't want to go far from home."

Kukoc, a 6-foot-11 forward, played 13 seasons in the NBA, including six-plus years with the Bulls and the last four with the Bucks.

"My choice was either Chicago or Milwaukee," he said. "Milwaukee is going with a young team and Chicago is in need of a big guy, so that's it."

The versatile Kukoc, a crowd favorite at the Bradley Center, played in 65 games last season and averaged 4.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Though he played increasingly fewer minutes in recent years, he was valued for his outside shooting, passing ability and leadership qualities.

Kukoc, who turns 38 on Monday, said he wasn't sad about leaving the game.

"No, not at all," he said. "I think it's time for me to move away from basketball. It was a huge part of my life and gave me pretty much everything I desired but there comes a time when you just can't take it anymore.

"I can still play 10, 15, 20 minutes, maybe, but I don't need it anymore. I always felt like I needed to play basketball. Right now, it's not my most desirable thing anymore. I'd rather play golf."

A native of Croatia, Kukoc was a three-time European player of the year and helped both Yugoslavia (1988) and Croatia (1992) win silver medals in the Olympic Games before signing with the Chicago Bulls in 1993.

He played six full seasons and part of a seventh with the Bulls and teamed with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen to win three consecutive NBA titles from 1995-`96 to 1997-`98.

The Bulls traded him to the Philadelphia 76ers midway through the 1999-2000 season and the 76ers traded him to Atlanta the next year.

On Aug. 2, 2002, the Bucks obtained Kukoc, Leon Smith and a 2003 first-round draft pick from the Hawks for forward Glenn Robinson.

Over his 13 NBA seasons, Kukoc averaged 11.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He won the NBA's sixth-man award after the 1995-`96 season and averaged a career-high 18.8 points in 1998-`99.

Kukoc said he had a 7 handicap in golf and was looking forward to spending time working on his game.

"I think it's the best game ever invented," he said. "I'm actually mad at my dad that he didn't get me involved in golf, but we didn't have golf back then."

so, one of the biggest croatian basketball players finally said it' over...
during his career he won:
- two olympic silver medals, in 1988. with Yugoslavia and in 1992. with Croatia against the one and only dream team
- in 1990. he was world champion with Yugoslavia
- in 1994. he won world bronze medal with Croatia
- in 1987. he won european silver with Yugoslavia
- in 1991. he was european champion with Yugoslavia
- in 1993. and 1995. he won european bronze medals with Croatia
- he won a Cup of european champions (now known as euroleague) in 1988., 1989., 1990. with KK Jugoplastika
- he won Yugoslavian championships with KK Jugoplastika in 1988., 1989., 1990., 1991.
- he won Yugoslavian cup with KK Jugoplastika in 1990., 1991.
- in 1992. he won Italian championship with Benetton (it was a first national championship for Benetton)
- in 1993. he won Italian cup with Benetton and he played his fourth euroleague final and it was the first time he lost the final, Limoges won it against Benetton.
- in 1996., 1997. and 1998. he won NBA championship rings with the Chicago Bulls
- in 1996. he won NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award, in that season he was a third scorer for the Chicago Bulls (behind Mr. Air and Scottie Pippen)
- in the 1998/1999 he lead the Chicago Bulls in scoring, rebounding and assists
- later on he played for the Philadelphia 76-ers, Atlanta Hawks and finally Milwaukee Bucks

some people like him, some people don't but if anything you've got to respect him...
so long Pink Panther

09-12-2006, 03:47 PM
The right time. Maybe he could play his last season in Split.

Anyway, I've liked him from what I've seen from him. Goodbye from basketball and happy retirement, Toni. :D

09-12-2006, 03:54 PM
Hopefully something comes up for him, if not, Kukoc had a great career.


09-12-2006, 05:35 PM
I hope he will ponder and still play another year, possibly in Europe... He's a true legend :)

Buducnost PG
09-12-2006, 08:48 PM
some people like him, some people don't but if anything you've got to respect him...

I like him very much. For me he was one of the best players in Europe ever and is a player which has won almost everything. Only the gold medal at the Olympics is missing. For me a big big player. I am happy to have all Jugoplastika EL-Finals and also some games from the YUG national team since 1987. But at this time their were a lot of great players like Radja, Petrovic, Divac, Paspalj, Vrankovic etc.

And Picek Croatia won bronze at the WC in 1994 not silver.

09-12-2006, 09:02 PM
I like him very much. For me he was one of the best players in Europe ever and is a player which has won almost everything. Only the gold medal at the Olympics is missing. For me a big big player. I am happy to have all Jugoplastika EL-Finals and also some games from the YUG national team since 1987. But at this time their were a lot of great players like Radja, Petrovic, Divac, Paspalj, Vrankovic etc.

And Picek Croatia won bronze at the WC in 1994 not silver.sorry, I've made a typing error...
anyway, Zdovc, Toni, Dino, Drazen, Vlade...
that was "our" dream team..

09-12-2006, 09:08 PM
some people like him, some people don't but if anything you've got to respect him...
Are there many people out there that dislike him? I can't see why... Besides being a superb player he also seems to be kind and a nice person.

09-12-2006, 09:28 PM
man thats sad. i eman 38 however is a bit old on the NBA season @ 82 games. He was defintiely my favorite european player. much respect to him cuz he played in he 90s, which imho was the thoughest decade for basketball. wish him the best of luck

09-13-2006, 04:35 PM
Tony has written his own history in bball with gold letters!I first saw him in a match Yugoplastica Vs Aris Salonica when he was very young and he did amazing things on the court...

09-17-2006, 11:23 PM
The Waiter was so slim when he started to play...

surely the best croatian played of 1990's (excluding drazen petrovic RIP) :D

09-19-2006, 06:51 PM
From CNN/SI: link to original article (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/kelly_dwyer/09/18/kukoc/index.html)

Toni reward: With retirement looming, Kukoc deserves some praise

Toni Kukoc is still waiting to see if either the Milwaukee Bucks or the Chicago Bulls want to make him a late roster addition, but the 6-foot-11 forward has made it clear he plans to call it quits soon enough.

This would hardly be a blow to teams hoping to secure his services -- the soon-to-be 38-year-old averaged only 4.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 15.7 minutes per game with the Bucks last year -- but it would close the book on one of the more remarkable careers we've seen over the last 20 years.

Kukoc wasn't the first European player of significance to make the jump to the NBA. Sarunas Marciulionis, Drazen Petrovic and Vlade Divac had each plied their trade Stateside for several years before Kukoc's 1993 debut.

And Kukoc was hardly the best European import we've seen; MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki has them all beat in that regard.

What Kukoc was able to accomplish, a trait that may have set him apart from the rest, was his ability to translate his international-style play into a skill set perfect for NBA ball. Kukoc succeeded in showcasing European basketball on the NBA stage, keeping his teammates and coaches happy (most of the time, at least) without betraying his own sense of style and abilities. This isn't to say there weren't numerous roadblocks and near-pratfalls along the way that rivaled even his most satisfying accomplishments.

Forward Toni Kukoc (left) was part of three title teams
with Michael Jordan in Chicago
before being dealt to Philadelphia in 2000.

Tipped off by his European scout Ivica Dukan, Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause made securing Kukoc's rights a significant priority after selecting him in the second round of the 1990 draft. The Bulls had yet to win a championship at that point, and Krause's near-obsessive courting of a player whom international scouts compared to Magic Johnson rubbed current Bulls such as Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen the wrong way.

Already resentful of Krause's role on the team, Pippen and Jordan made a point to make life miserable for Kukoc in their matchup with Croatia during the gold-medal game at the 1992 Olympics, hounding their future teammate defensively even with the U.S. win assured.

Things didn't get any easier upon Kukoc's introduction to Chicago in October 1993. His arrival came just days before Jordan's initial retirement from basketball, and the rookie-to-be could be spied weeping quietly off to the side of the podium where Jordan made his announcement.

Starting only eight games in his rookie year, Kukoc was still a revelation. He easily outran most of his power-forward counterparts and seemed to see the court better than most of the game's veteran point guards. Even as coach Phil Jackson harped on his every move, Kukoc feigned translation issues and continued apace, averaging 10.9 points, four rebounds and 3.4 assists while playing 24.1 minutes a game. Even without Jordan, Chicago still won 55 games, two off the pace of the championship season a year earlier.

Though his minutes dwindled a bit in the playoffs, Kukoc still made noise by winning Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals with an arching 20-footer as time expired. The shot is best known for the chaos that led up to it: Pippen, exasperated by a lunkheaded play Kukoc had made during an offensive possession just seconds before, sat out the final 1.8 seconds in protest after Jackson called the final shot for Kukoc. Chicago eventually lost to the Knicks in seven games.

Jordan and his massive strike zone were still down in the minor leagues for the next season, but a starting power forward slot opened up for Kukoc, and he averaged just under 16 points and a combined 10 rebounds and assists in 31.7 minutes per game. Yet his defense remained porous, and Kukoc was still acclimating to the NBA lifestyle -- which meant altering his pregame routine of eating seven-course meals including salad, pasta, steak and watered-down glasses of wine. Chicago trainer Chip Schaefer later told author David Halberstam that Kukoc's meals ventured into the territory of 4,000 calories, though the Bulls were later able to steer him in a healthier direction.

More distressing was Chicago's play, with a recently unretired Jordan, in the conference semifinals against Orlando in 1995. Jackson had chosen to double-team Shaquille O'Neal at all costs, which meant the entire defense had to recover in time to check shooters Anfernee Hardaway, Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott, leaving Horace Grant open for elbow-extended 18-footers. It was a shot Grant was entirely capable of making, but it was also a low-percentage try, and much more preferable to an O'Neal throwdown or open three-pointer. Still, Grant nailed his fair share, and the sight of Kukoc struggling to rotate toward the open ex-Bull was enough for Chicago to trade for the defensive-minded Dennis Rodman in the upcoming offseason.

Kukoc was not happy with his banishment to the bench, but though his per-game statistics dipped, his overall efficiency improved, netting him the 1995-96 Sixth Man Award. To Kukoc it was a dubious honor, made worse during that year's playoffs when a back injury robbed him of a chance to showcase his considerable talents on a larger stage.

Though the Bulls won the championship that year and the next, a nagging foot injury also hampered Kukoc's 1997 playoff run. By 1998, however, he was healthy -- and his clutch performance in a Game 7 win over the Indiana Pacers vaulted Chicago into the Finals.

From there, Kukoc's star dimmed a bit. He enjoyed the best statistical year of his career in 1999 (19 points, seven boards, five assists), but it was during the truncated lockout season, and on a Bulls team -- sans Jackson, Jordan, Pippen and Rodman -- that won just 13 games. He offered more of the same the next season but was sent to Philadelphia in a three-team deal that netted Chicago a lottery pick.

Stuck on the bench again, Kukoc struggled on a team dominated by defense and Allen Iverson, and was shipped to Atlanta before the Sixers made their Finals run. There Kukoc enjoyed his finest NBA stretch to close out the 2000-01 season, running an effortless pick-and-roll with Jason Terry for an also-ran Hawks team, but injuries and step-slow teammates hindered his efforts during the next season.

This was to become a theme. Though injuries often hindered his touch from the outside and his ability to drive, Kukoc boasted a basketball IQ that was often greater than the sum of the four teammates on the floor with him. His expression vacillated between bemusement and frustration as the cutters never cut, the give-and-gos never went and ball movement was quashed in the face of one-on-one play. Kukoc's final great season was for a Bucks team that underachieved horribly in 2002-03, leading to the trade of its best player (Ray Allen) and the dismissal of coach George Karl.

Even with all the impediments, Kukoc was a joy to watch. He was a loping, lengthy player who seemed able to orchestrate with the best of them, yet chose to pick his spots among NBA types who never seemed on the same page. When Kukoc did force the action, his play stood out -- always going left, always with a pained expression on his face, always in control, a mix of elegance and function.

It probably ends here, which seems natural; Kukoc doesn't seem interested in the game as much if the circumstances (a Midwest locale, especially) aren't ideal, but it was interesting while it lasted.

Kukoc proved to a generation that international-style play could thrive within NBA confines, an achievement that will someday outshine the three championship rings he earned. For international NBA imports, he is due myriad thanks. And to Stateside NBA observers, he is due just as many plaudits for turning everyone on to an entirely different style of play.

09-19-2006, 06:57 PM
From one of my favorite sportswriters Mike Kahn's 10 Things We Learned This Week (http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/5978242) About the NBA:

10 things we learned this week
Some 14 years after coming into the NBA as the European answer to Magic Johnson, the career of Toni Kukoc is close to the end.

1. Item: With the Milwaukee Bucks making it clear they couldn't come to a deal with Kukoc, he reportedly has been in discussions with his former teammate on the Chicago Bulls — present general manager John Paxson — about maybe playing a year to help the young Bulls.

What this really means: Whether or not Kukoc plays another season isn't as relevant as what he meant as the forerunner to all the international players that dot more than 20 percent of the NBA rosters today. At 6-11, 235, he was a point guard, shooting guard and small forward rolled into one. He'd block shots, grab rebounds and make the great pass or bury the 3-pointer.
Sure he was soft and didn't defend with the same tenacity as his other Bulls teammates — but he was a vital cog in their three titles from 1996-98 — as a brilliant team player. For all of his limitations of strength and defense, he set the tone for the many players that developed into NBA caliber players over the past decade. He deserves another year with the Bulls, if he wants it — if only because of what he's meant to so many in changing the game for the world. And maybe Paxson, his old teammate, will buy into the concept too. read the rest of the list (http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/5978242)

11-01-2006, 02:49 PM
Yesterday in an interview for the Croatian TV Kukoč admited that his retirement is highly probable :/

11-04-2006, 04:21 AM
Yugoplastika, benneton, chicago.... are lucky teams because they could enjoy such an amazing player. I wish you the best Toni.

And hopefully see you in a couple of years in the Ryder Cup. :D :D

11-23-2006, 10:21 AM
Kukoč said a month ago that he has few offers, but right now he's without a club and it seems it's the end of his career.

Joško Poljak Fan
01-08-2007, 02:49 PM
Kukoč confirmed for newspaper "Večerni list" that his career is officially over.

3 times european champion with Jugoplastika Split (89, 90, 91)
lost in euroleague finals vs. Limoges, playing for Benneton Treviso (93)
3 times NBA champion with Chicago Bulls (96, 97, 98)
2 times european champion with Yugoslavia (89, 91)
1 time world champion with Yugoslavia (90)
2 times silver at olympics (88-Yu, 92-Cro)

...he should only play his retirement game (i wish it was a season) for Split to make his career perfect ...

01-08-2007, 05:00 PM
Looks like it's really over then. The farewell of A legend :)

01-16-2007, 10:02 AM
Looks like it's really over then. The farewell of A legend :)

What legend? Look hes just a kid in this recently made photo :D


01-16-2007, 10:35 PM


Juan Carlos Nadal
01-17-2007, 09:04 AM
What legend? Look hes just a kid in this recently made photo :D


OT: Was Inavovic born old?

01-17-2007, 04:07 PM
With Kukoč's retirement (as well as Teo Čizmić's) Jugoplastika's golden generation comes to a close. ACB's website published an interesting article telling the whole story - "Jugoplastika: The generation that had basketball in their veins": http://www.acb.com/redaccion.php?id=36699

03-06-2007, 08:47 PM
Apparently the Bulls offered Toni a contract some days ago, but he declined stating that he no longer feels able to play basketball and that he actually got tired of the game. He also added that if he had accepted it he would be fooling himself and everyone, and as a proof he said that nowadays after running for an hour and a half with his son he feels exhausted, with pain all over his body in the following days.
Well, at least he's sincere ;)

05-18-2007, 06:34 PM
I miss Toni. Nobody comes close to his basketball IQ these days. :)