2017 Class of FIBA Hall of Fame: Toni Kukoc
MIES (FIBA Hall of Fame) - One of the most influential players in European, international and NBA basketball, Toni Kukoc is being honored with induction to the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2017.
Kukoc, who was named as one of FIBA's 50 Greatest Players in 1991, is among six former players being enshrined into the Hall of Fame, alongside Shaquille O'Neal (United States), Mickey Berkowitz (Israel), Pero Cameron (New Zealand), Razija Mujanovic (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Valdis Valters (Latvia). Joining them is coaching great Dusan Ivkovic (Serbia) and the Dream Team, arguably the greatest international team of all time. They were selected from a list of more than 150 candidates.
The 6ft 10in (2.08m) forward left his mark everywhere he played thanks to his exciting style and a leadership quality that resulted in numerous titles at both the club and national team levels.
A native of Split, Croatia, he grew up playing at Jugoplastika where he developed his game into one that would inspire generations of players to come. He was a long and lanky point power forward with exceptional court vision and passing skills. He could also run the floor, finish and shoot well from outside.
Winning was a common occurrence for Kukoc - even from an early age. He helped Yugoslavia to the title at the FIBA U16 European Championship in 1985 and the following year's FIBA U18 European Championship. He was also part of Yugoslavia's famed champions at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 1987.
Success followed at the senior level with Kukoc making his FIBA EuroBasket debut in 1987 and helping Yugoslavia finish third. He then grabbed the top spot on the European podium in 1989 and 1991. But the hardware wasn't limited to just Europe. Kukoc and Yugoslavia captured silver at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and gold at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 1990 in Argentina. After the breakup of Yugoslavia, Kukoc then helped Croatia take a silver medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona where they lost to the USA's Dream Team in the Gold Medal Game.
"If that (1988 Yugoslavia) team had stayed together and we played against the Dream Team, I am not saying we would have won the game. But I'm saying it would be a really, really interesting game to watch. We had eight, maybe nine guys played in the NBA with that team; we were good, knew each other well," Kukoc was once quoted as saying on the Chicago Bulls website about the Barcelone 1992 Olympics Gold Medal Game.
All the while, Kukoc was also cementing his legacy at Jugoplastika. He led the Split club to three straight EuroLeague championships from 1989 to 1991. He then went on to win an Italian league title (1992) and an Italian Cup (1993) with Italian giants Benetton Treviso, also reaching the 1993 EuroLeague final.
Later in 1993, Kukoc made his jump to the NBA - having been drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1990. He joined the Bulls after Michael Jordan had just completed Chicago's three-peat of titles and retired. Jordan would come back at the end of Kukoc's second season and the Bulls would claim three more consecutive NBA championships from 1996 to 1998.
Kukoc was one of the few players who built up an extremely successful career in Europe and then matched it - or even exceeded it - in the United States. After Jordan retired and the Bulls entered a rebuilding phase, Kukoc remained in Chicago for another season and a half before spending time with the Philadelphia 76ers (2000-01) and Atlanta Hawks (2001-02) and then four years with the Milwaukee Bucks (2002-06) and then retiring.
|Category of Inductee||Player|
|Date of birth||September 18, 1968|
|Place of birth||Split, Croatia|
|Height||6ft 10in (2.08m)|
|National team highlights||
The 2017 Class of the FIBA Hall of Fame will be inducted during a special ceremony at the House of Basketball - the headquarters of basketball's world governing body on the outskirts of Geneva, Switzerland - on Saturday September 30.