This is a look at Toni Kukoc, his stats, and his upcoming induction into the basketball hall-of-fame. Kukoc is going into the hall-of-fame because of his contributions made as a European player. It has nothing to do with his NBA career.
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Toni Kukoc: Hall-of-Fame
This past weekend, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Tim Duncan were enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall-of-Fame. The NBA legends were part of the 2020 class. Toni Kukoc will be inducted into the class of 2021.
The class of 2021 also includes Paul Pierce, Chris Webber, Chris Bosh, Ben Wallace, Yolanda Griffith and Villanova coach Jay Wright.
Some NBA fans think Michael Jordan has another another hall-of famer in Kukoc on the 1990’s Bulls. It’s an attempt to discredit Michael Jordan’s greatness. Michael Jordan is responsible for the Bulls six championships because of who he is and what he did.
Toni Kukoc isn’t going into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall-of-Fame for what he accomplished during his NBA career. The international committeee will induct him into the class of 2021. This enshrinement only covers his Europeam career in basketball, not his NBA career.
Toni Kukoc stats
At a glance, Toni Kukoc’s stats in the NBA aren’t terrible, but they’re far from hall-of-fame statistics. Toni wouldn’t even be a nominee in a NBA Hall-of-Fame, if there were such a thing.
He averaged 11.6 points-per-game, 4.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and a steal for his career. He never averaged 20 points-per-game for a season or made an NBA all-star team.
The 1996 sixth man-of-the-year was a lousy defender. Offensively, he was a jump shooter. He couldn’t really take opponents off the dribble with any consistency.
Toni had his best seasons playing under Chicago Bulls head coach, Phil Jackson and playing with the championship teams led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
Recently the European great said, he thought the 1994 Bulls should have defeated Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets in 1994. There wasn’t much to stop Olajuwon on Chicago. Great defenders like Patrick Ewing had trouble with him. Horace Grant and Bill Cartwright weren’t stopping Olajuwon.
“The Dream” made David Robinson look outright foolish in 1995. Most notably, game 2 of the western conference finals.
The NBA gave Hakeem’s MVP award to Robinson. I don’t think those Bulls would’ve won two games in a series against Houston without Jordan.
He won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award in 1996 and that was the ceiling for “The Spider of Split” in the NBA as far as individual accomplishments go.
His shooting stats were OK. He shot 44.7% from the field and 33.5% from three point range for his career. They aren’t bad numbers but they’re still below average. It’s not what you want from a player who isn’t giving you much besides scoring.
Coming to America?
Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and the teams GM Jerry Krause selected Toni Kukoc with the 29th pick of the 2nd round in the 1990 NBA Draft. This occurred a few months after The League of Communists of Yugoslavia dissolved in January 1990 along federal lines.
Reinsdorf and Krause would make trips to visit Toni, trying to recruit him to the Chicago Bulls. Similar to a college program recruiting high school talent.
They would say things like “how great it would be for him to play with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen” or the success other ex-Yugoslavian basketball players like Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic were having in the NBA.
Kukoc finally joined the Chicago Bulls in 1993, three years after the team drafted him. His firstis first NBA season was in 1993-94.
Toni Kukoc won three straight EuroLeague championships (1989-91) with KK Jugoplastika. They were four-time Yugoslav League champions from 1988-91.
He was a three-time EuroLeague Final Four MVP and the EuroLeague regular season MVP in 1991. Luka Doncic won these awards with Madrid in 2018.
“The Croation Sensation”, led KK Jugoplastika to the Triple Crown both in 1990 & 1991.
He joined Benetton Treviso of the Italian League in 1992. They won the Italian League championship in that same year, 1992 and they won the Italian Cup in 1993. Toni won named EuroLeague Final Four MVP again.
Kukoc led the EuroLeague Finals in scoring in 1990. He was a five-time Euroscar player-of-the-year and a four-time Mister Europa.
He was named to the FIBA top 50 greatest players and to the greatest EuroLeague contributors list of all-time greats.
Kukoc is going to the hall-of-fame mostly because of his career as a European player in the EuroLeague. His international career as a National Team member of Yugoslavia and Croatia are a factor too. He led Yugoslavia to the under-19 junior World Cup in 1987 and was that tournament’s MVP.
Kukoc was a member of the 1988 Yugoslavian silver medal Olympic team and in 1990 he was MVP of the FIBA World Championships and won Gold at the 1989 & 1991 EuroBasket tournaments. He was MVP of this tournament in 1991.
He was a member of the Croatian National team at the 1992 summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. He helped Croatia win a silver medal, they fell to the Dream Team in the Gold Medal Game.
Four different committee’s make up the Naismith Hall-of-Fame. A North American Committee that covers the NCAA and NBA, a women’s committee, a veterans committee and an international committee.
The North American committee covers basketball in North America, while the international committee covers the rest of the world. Toni Kukoc is being inducted in the class of 2021 by only the International committee.
He’d have been presented by the North American committee if the induction had anything to do with the NBA. He wasn’t even a nominee.
In 2017, he was inducted into the FIBA hall-of-fame though and recently Toni opened up to Bulls sports columnist K.C Johnson about being named to the Naismith class-of-2021. Calling the honor in a zoom interview “Destiny”, and stating “Maybe it was in the script”.
Before he came to the United States, his passing ability was most often compared to Magic Johnson’s precision with the Los Angeles Lakers. In the EuroLeague, his passes earned him the nicknamed the “The Waiter”. This court vision must have been lost in translation when he came to America.
Tony Kukoc’s induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall-of-Fame has nothing to do with his NBA career. The international committee voted him in, not the NBA contingent.
When people say the Chicago Bulls had four hall-of-famers on their championship teams, this is true but it’s not accurate. Many LeBron James lovers, who have hatred towards Michael Jordan will use this to distort fans who don’t know any better.
The only player that was an NBA All-Star as a teammate of Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls(1984-98) was Scottie Pippen. Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, and Toni Kukoc were never all-stars playing with the Bulls.