Basketball Wiki
Toni Kukoč

A photo of Toni Kukoč.

Toni Kukoč (IPA: [ˈkʊkɔtʃ]) (born September 18, 1968 in Split, SR Croatia, SFR Yugoslavia) is a retired Croatian basketball player. He was renowned for his versatility and passing ability; although his natural position was small forward, he played all five positions on the court with equal prowess and demonstrated court vision and an outside shooting touch that were seldom found in players of his height. Kukoč was one of the first established European stars to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Contents [hide] 1 European career 2 NBA career 3 Retirement 4 Notes 5 External links

[edit] European career Kukoč played for Jugoplastika Split and won the Euroleague with the team three years in a row. Afterwards he played for Benetton Treviso, winning the title of Player of the Year three times. He has won the Italian Championship in 1992 and Italian Cup in 1993, and played in the European Champions' Cup final in 1993. He has been nicknamed "the white Magic", "the spider from Split", "the Pink Panther", "the waiter","the European Jordan", and was known as "the Croatian Sensation" when he played in the NBA. He was also on teams that won the FIBA World Junior Championship (1987 for Yugoslavia), two Olympic silver medals (1988 for Yugoslavia and 1992 for Croatia), and the FIBA World Championship (1990 for Yugoslavia), in which he was selected the tournament MVP.[1]

So great was Kukoc's fame, even before playing in the NBA, Kukoc was earning $13 million over five years for a contract with the Italian clothier Benetton.

[edit] NBA career Having been drafted by the NBA's Chicago Bulls in 1990, he continued to play in Europe, until finally reporting to the Bulls in 1993, when the team had just finished its first three-peat and had lost Michael Jordan to retirement.

The 6'11" (2.11 m) Kukoč came off the bench in 1993-94 behind small forward Scottie Pippen and power forward Horace Grant, though Kukoč could play shooting guard and center as well. Kukoč put up a solid rookie campaign, averaging double-digit scoring and earning a berth on the All-Rookie Second Team. After Grant left in the offseason, Kukoč moved into the starting lineup and finished the 1994-95 season second on the Bulls in scoring, rebounds and assists behind Pippen.

In the 1995-96 season, Michael Jordan had returned, and the Bulls had acquired an exceptional rebounder, Dennis Rodman, in the offseason. With Pippen still at small forward, coach Phil Jackson saw it best to have Kukoč continue to be a bench player. Toni was third on the team in scoring (behind Jordan and Pippen) and was rewarded for his efforts with the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award. He also assisted the Bulls to a 25-game turnaround and the best record in league history at 72–10, as well as the fourth championship in team history.

In 1997 and 1998, Kukoč again came off the bench as sixth man as the Bulls won their fifth and sixth NBA titles. Once again, he was the team's third-leading scorer.

In early 1999, the team was broken up, and Kukoč was one of the only players from their championship years that the Bulls retained. In the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, he led the team in scoring, rebounding, and assists. During the 1999-2000 season as Chicago continued their rebuilding scheme, Kukoč was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for whom he played briefly before he was soon traded again to the Atlanta Hawks. After a short stint with the Hawks, he finally found himself in a more suitable fit with the Milwaukee Bucks via a third trade.

[edit] Retirement On September 12, 2006, Kukoč intimated that he would retire from professional basketball if he could not be signed by either the Milwaukee Bucks or the Chicago Bulls for the 2006-07 NBA season. Although various NBA teams had shown interest in his services, Kukoč expressed a desire to be close to his residence in the town of Highland Park, Illinois.[2]

[edit] Notes