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Toni Kukoc Croatian basketball sensation in Chicago Bulls and Pink Panther of the NBA
By Nenad N. Bach and Darko Žubrinić | Published  12/19/2013 | Sports , People , Entertainment | Unrated
George Mikan, Drazen Petrovic and Toni Kukoc three Croatian giants in the NBA

Toni Kukoč as a member of the Croatian national basketball represenatation
at the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992. The Croatian team won silver medal, playing with the Dream Team in the finals.

Who is the best European player who played in the NBA?
The most underated basketball player ever.

Toni Kukoc: born September 18, 1968 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 that is seldom found in players of his height. Kukoč is one of the first established European stars to play in North America's National Basketball Association (NBA).

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.

Toni Kukoč and Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls

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.

In Europe they called him The Pink Panther, his lucidity and intelligence fascinated everyone. He gave three European team basketball titles to his hometown Split, Croatia. He won two Olympic silvers, a World Champion title and many awards in Croatia and Europe. In 1992 he was ready to move to the homeland of basketball. He joined the Chicago Bulls, he got the nickname The Croatian Sensation, and he reached the top, he won three NBA rings in a row. The new NBA season is his opportunity to play with the best players at the All-Star game. He continued his career in NBA as a Philadelphia 76's and Atlanta Hawks player, and afterwards he was playing for Milwaukee Bucks. While he was still playing in Europe, an anonymous American who was in Europe noticed him. A few years after that, when he returned home at Bronx, he was telling his friends about a man he saw in Europe, a man that was going to play in Chicago later. He had only one thing to say and that was... "He plays like a brother". Is there a better compliment...

This text is the one accompaning the first video below.


Toni Kukoč with his family, living again in his native city of Split.
On the left are his father Ante and mother Radojka. In front of him are his wife Renata and daughter Stela, and standing by him is his son Marin.

Split is one of the most beautiful cities on the Mediterranean. It is the hometown of Croatian high jumper Blanka Vlašić, of handball player Ivano Balić,
and of tennis player Goran Ivanišević. The 2013 radial laser sailing world champion is Tina Mihelić, living in the city of Split.

Formated for CROWN by Darko Žubrinić
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