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Toni Kukoc, Croatia
A native of Split, Croatia, Kukoc came to the NBA after an outstanding career in
Europe. A three-time European Player of the Year, he led Jugoplastika Split to a
European Championship in 1990. He spent the 1991-92 and 1992-93 campaigns with
Benetton Treviso of the Italian League, averaging 19.9 points over the two
seasons. He was also a member of the Yugoslavian Olympic team that won a silver
medal at the 1988 Olympics, and he earned a second silver medal with the
Croatian team in 1992. A member of three European championship teams and a
three-time European Player of the Year, Kukoc had teamed with Dino Radja and the
late Drazen Petrovic to lead Yugoslavia to a silver medal in the 1988 Olympic
Games in Seoul. The group came together again in 1992 as Croatia and earned
another Olympic silver in Barcelona. Part of the difficulty in getting Kukoc to
play in the NBA was that the NBA's salary cap restricted teams from free
spending, while the Italian League had no such constraints. Kukoc's team,
Benetton Treviso, could give the Croatian star anything he wanted-and did-during
the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons. But by the summer of 1993 Kukoc was able to get
out of his five-year contract with Benetton and try to make a name for himself
in the NBA. After a three-year wait the Bulls signed him to a contract on July
IBN Facts: Was named Sixth Man of the Year after the Chicago Bull's 72-10 season in 1995-96. Played in the inaugural NBA Rookie All-Star Game in 1994. Named to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1993-94. Is a three-time NBA Champion, all with the Michael-Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. Recorded his second career triple-double on 3/26/00 at Indiana with 19 pts, 10 rebs, and 10 asts.
Name: Toni Kukoc
Nickname: Pink Panther, White Magic, Alien, The Spider of Split, The Waiter, Kuki
Drafted: 1990, Second Round, 29th pick by the Chicago Bulls
Languages: Croatian, English
Website: InterBasket, Ultimate Toni Kukoc Fan Site
Teams (jersey): Yugoslavian National Team, Croatian National Team, Jugoplastika Split (Croatia), Benetton Treviso (Italy), Chicago Bulls (7), Atlanta Hawks (7), Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks (7), IBN Dream Team (First Team)
Ibn Notes: One of the best players to ever play the European game, "The Spider of Split" never translated the statistical success of his Euro career over to the NBA. Though he was the third-leading scorer, behind Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and won three NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls, Kukoc is looked at as a disappointing player because of the hype surrounding him before his arrival.
No matter, when Toni Kukoc's so-called "disappointing" three-championship NBA career comes to an end, he'll always be considered one of Europe's best players and a integral part of three NBA Championship teams. That's a lot more than most can say...
Fiba.com: "In 1989, the Yugoslavs assembled all of their “golden
generation” in what would turn into a 3-year dominance of world basketball
(European titles in 1989 and 1990 and a World Championship in 1991).
|Toni Kukoc Links From our forum: Toni Kukoc Pictures Where Will Kukoc Go? Croatia Basketball Forum Article(s): In the Face of Adversity (CNNsi.com 1997), A New Generation of Stars: History of Eurobasket (Fiba.com), Silver Lining (CNNsi.com 1996) Toni Kukoc Interview (Chicago-Sun-Times 1999) "I Worry About the Future of the World" (ESPN 2001)|