Former Croatian national basketball team member and Chicago Bulls star, Toni Kukoč was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield on Saturday. Kukoč became the fifth Croatian basketball player to enter the Hall of Fame, after Krešimir Ćosić in 1996, Dražen Petrović in 2002, Mirko Novosel in 2007 and Dina Rađa in 2018.
Way back in 2014 Kukoč was nominated by the Chicago Bulls to enter the Hall of Fame, and it has taken the Croatian basketball star eight attempts to join the exclusive club.
“I started playing sports when I was eight, with table tennis and football, and then at the age of 15 basketball. My career was defined by two teams - Jugoplasitika from Split and the Chicago Bulls. Split, my hometown is one of the biggest sporting cities in history and it has given the world a lot of great sports names,” Kukoč began his speech.
"In my international career, I played for two countries - Yugoslavia and Croatia - and I had great success with them. I played with big names in those national teams that are themselves members of the Hall of Fame - like the late Dražen Petrović, Dino Radja and Vlado Divac,” he added.
"And I played with some other big names. I want to thank Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for ‘breaking’ me at the 1992 Olympics and forcing me to work even harder to be an important member of the Bulls,” said Kukoč.
Editor of The Dubrovnik Times, Mark Thomas, meets Toni Kukoč in 2011
Toni Kukoč started his career at Jugoplastica in Split where he played from 1987 to 1991, and then moved to Benetton where he was until 1993 when he transferred to the NBA. He spent 13 years there until 2006, and played for the Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks. With the Chicago Bulls, he won the NBA title three times and was named the best sixth player in the strongest league in the world. In 846 games played in the NBA, he averaged 11.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
With the Croatian national team, he won Olympic silver in Barcelona in 1992 and two bronze medals at the European and one at the World Championships. Prior to that, he won the 1988 Olympic silver with the Yugoslav national team, as well as world gold, two European gold and one bronze.