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The Last Dance: From Kukoč’s Eyes

April 28, 2020

michael-jordan-toni-kukoc

Kukoč with Jordan

 

 

Many basketball fans have been watching the 10-part ESPN docuseries about the 90’s Chicago Bulls and their last season in 1998 before the team split up – and Michal Jordan – ultimately retired for a second time.

 

 

Although most of the series has thus far focused on Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and coach Phil Jackson; Croatian Toni Kukoč was a huge part of the second 3-peat and this ESPN article sheds some fantastic perspective from Kukoč’s eyes.

 

 

Kukoč first played for the Bulls in 1993 after nearly winning every trophy in Europe and taking Croatia to the gold medal match of the 1992 Olympics against The Dream Team. Kukoč won the 6th Man of the Year award in 1996 and is currently receiving tons of support from the basketball community to be elected into the Hall of Fame.

 

 

The article talks about Kukoč coming to the NBA, his wine selection during road trips, and what the Dream Team thought of him during the ’92 Olympic games in Barcelona. It’s a good read since I don’t expect Kukoč to get any love in the docuseries.
 

 

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Ante Kvartuč
Posted By: Ante Kvartuč 26 comments





  1. Soul Champ says:

    I love this thread.

    I am happy Toni is at peace with his hall of fame career.

    I have been jealous of Dirk and now Doncic. They have been allowed to grow and flourish into their NBA careers. While Toni and Drazen had to struggle to find their niche.

    To hear Toni say that he rather play his role with the two of the greatest players ever for an historic modern NBA dynasty, rather than have meaningless stats speaks to the champion that he is.

    His game was ahead of his time and primed the NBA for the stretch 4, albeit that he was legit playmaking guard in a 6’10” body.

    I also would have liked to see him in today’s NBA where you can be slight and athletic without the need to fight through the physicality of the 90’s.

    He was so agile and athletic in Europe and those extra weight lifting pounds slowed him down a bit.

    Today he would be allowed to like KD and ball out.

    I am just curious why a Dragan Bender is such a scrub athlete and a Mario Hezonja is such a scrub baller?

    We have not produced players any where near a Petrović and a Kukoč in decades?

    To see our beloved Vatreni surpass ‘98 with our world champs 2018 gives me a glimmer of hope for HKS.

    Bog I Hrvati.



  2. Crotown says:

    Toni will always be #2 to Drazen- just a different fire burned in Drazen that Toni didn’t have – I think if Drazen didn’t die so prematurely- he would have been the scoring champion of the NBA at Michael Jordan level- such an unjustice- still upsetting even today



  3. Maminjo says:

    What’s the difference between Luka Doncic and Toni Kukoc?

    To me, they are the exact same player.

    If Doncic were drafted in the 90s, they would glue his ass to the bench for not being able to defend one on one. He would also get mauled by guys like Anthony Mason for every rebound (or attempt at scoring in the paint), and would be asked to develop a midrange game over shooting threes.

    Disaster times for highly talented European players.



  4. Soul Champ says:

    @ Crotown

    Dražen is with us all in our hearts.

    @ Maminjo

    Not to mention Dražen shot 50% from three.

    Could you imagine if had 5 shots to warm him up like Dončić who shoots 32%!!

    Actually Dražen would have kept his quick agile Self with no hand checking and would played his natural lead guard position.

    Dražen off the high screen with spaced out floor??

    Pick your poison.



  5. The truth says:

    @ soul champ

    drazen was a 43.7% career 3 point shooter, on 2 attempts per game….still great

    we can’t really compare it to luka doncic at 32%. Luka is putting up 9 attempts per game…highly contested and many of them are step backs… would be nice for that percentage to be a little bit better but more so, just him being able to attempt so many 3s creates such gravity and bends the defense in such a way, that dallas had the greatest offense in history last year with doncic on the floor

    @ maminjo
    luka vs toni?

    ha…. I mean sure…it’s fun to play this game… there are some nice passing, shooting, feel similarities to the game that the two shared…. and I could definitely see today’s game being better served to kukoc

    but b/c players are similar does not make them the same.. doncic is just in a different planet…he’s arguably had better numbers at this stage in his career than LeBron

    sure, playing in today’s game would’ve helped kukoc but it wouldn’t have made him up there with the best players to ever play the game



  6. The truth says:

    also, as I look through kukoc’s stats… a couple things jump out at me

    for a big guy, the gu ywas a terrible rebounder.. about 4 a game.. donic averaged 9 boards a game last year.. also , kukoc was not as good a 3 point shooter as I thought.. 33% career average on 2.6 attempts per game… not great… even prob getting tons of open looks with the Jordan bulls, he only hit about 36%



  7. Maminjo says:

    @Truth

    Kukoc is a much better 3pt shooter than Doncic.

    Doncic may improve (especially in this 3pt friendly climate) but it’s bad to argue that as a weakness. Kukoc’s 3pt shooting was a strength. He stretched the floor, and could hit it off the dribble AND as a spot up shooter. The 90s (and Phil Jackson) were cruel to Toni.

    Also, both Kukoc and Doncic are mediocre rebounders. That won’t ever change.

    Doncic’s rebounds are a result of stat stuffing defensive rebounds that his own teammates let him grab. Doncic’s 1:8 ratio of Offensive Reb to Defensive Reb is very bad. Even Kukoc, in limited minutes, was averaging almost 2 Offensive boards per game (in the 90s mind you). Luka will probably never average 2 Offensive Rebs per game.

    Prime Kukoc was playing less than 30 mpg with the Jordan Bulls, and every loose ball was Rodman’s. A rebound in the 90s was the equivalent of probably 1.5 rebounds in today’s less physical NBA.

    Everything about these two are exactly the same, other than Doncic’s insanely good scoring average.

    Doncic is a more aggressive scorer than Kukoc, but it’s difficult to to gauge this in two different eras, where every single one of Luka’s and Toni’s skills are considered extremely valuable in today’s NBA…and both of their weaknesses (one on one defense, rebounding, very rigid and structured halfcourt offense) were deemed critical back in the 90s.

    Toni would easily be a triple-double machine today as well.

    I mean, before Rodman was brought in, Kukoc was averaging 16 5 and 5 in only 30 mpg, with a coach and teammates that were hostile to his skillset.

    That’s like 20 7 and 7 (with a strict offense, no transition scoring, no threes, and very physical defence).

    He’d probably have been a 25ppg player today with a ton of assists.



  8. Maminjo says:

    That being said, Ivica Zubac was also born in the wrong era.

    This kid would have been a HUGE prospect back in the 90s.

    Size like that, and great soft hands, excellent FT shooter, with a wide array of halfcourt skills…he would have been a fringe All-Star in his prime.



  9. Suba says:

    It’s funny when u see pics of Jordan with Toni Michael is always telling him off of glaring at him

    I guess that didn’t want a skinny white Croatian guy taking over



  10. Mixed Grill says:

    Please, Kukoc would be no better today and was always a disappointment. He was well suited for the European game but the NBA exposed him as too slow, poor on defense, afraid of physical contact and of having no post game for his size. Watching him incapable on the national team post Petrovic was depressing. Dino Radja in the NBA was more impressive, with lovely post moves, nice scoring touch and he at least could rebound. After Kukoc came Nowitski, Gasol, Doncic, players from Europe of another level altogether.

    As per: “Everything about these two are exactly the same, other than Doncic’s insanely good scoring average.”
    You must be joking, Doncic has speed and movement and physicality and I dare say the heart Kukoc never had.



  11. Soul Champ says:

    Young Kukoč could dunk with two hands from the foul line!!

    He lost a step when Chicago wanted him to bulk up.

    Dražen shot 45% from three his last year.

    Dončić is a baller no doubt but he shoots heat check three bricks to start the game.

    Just making the point that Toni and Dražen paved the way for Nowitski and Dončić to be allowed to play their natural game.



  12. Johnny jockich says:

    Fear not we have a new kid on the block to take over the cro mantle in hoops.Dragan bender over balled out his last game in GS before the season was shut down and I’ve already got him headed straight to the European H.O.F next to Toni just based on that 23 point performance!
    Dario was actually finally playing decent ball in Phoenix as well…the curtailing of the NBA came at a bad time for these 2.
    Let’s hope samanic or prkacin can turn into decent prospects it’s long over due we had a guy who we could really root for like Toni or Drazen.
    For some reason bojan just doesn’t invoke a passionate following as good of a scorer as he is.



  13. Mixed Grill says:

    Suba, I don’t day this for fun since I always rooted for Kukoc and wanted the best for him, I just never liked his game. Drazen, Radja and Bogdanovic I truly prefer as players in every way.

    Indeed Kukoc bulked up too much for his first season, that was a mistake.



  14. Milicevic says:

    Kukoc was and is an outcast in the Croatian community. I have never thought of him as a Croat, in the sense that ive never seen him active in the Croatian community anywhere. Look, Kukoc is kind of like a Gretzky, the minute the money was secured in his account he took off to the United States and never looked back. Thats why im always kind of irked when Croatiansport.com or any other Croatian affiliated media give him the time of day. EARN, my friends is the most important word here.



  15. Anonymous says:

    Is atheist Zoran Milanovic a Croat? His cowardly behaviour in fleeing Croatia to avoid fighting and possibly dying for the Croatian people in the Homeland war is typical Croatian behaviour in my opinion, that’s Croatian genetics coming into play right there.

    This Milanovic guy, a true representive of the Croatian people, wants to remove a HOS plaque from nearby Jasenovac because it has ZDS on it and at the same time appease the Croatian antichrist Jews because they’re the majority in Croatia? The minority HOS-ovci that wore that badge during the Homeland war find that offensive, are they Croats?

    The 3,069 felt that they were sucked into believing that there was a reconcilation between the Ustase and communists, only to find out later that they were in fact meatheads used to bring communists into power in the fake Homeland War, a war with a pre-determined result, just like the world cup final lol!

    Now the HOS-ovci are killing themselves out of shame, but the children of communists rule Croatia, a country they didn’t want to exist during wwii but will gladly rule it when it is a country created in their image and likeness.

    Even Croatia’s “right wing” candidate, Miroslav Skoro, is an anti-facist Titoljub that didn’t stay to fight in the war but rather chose to flee to sing in Serbian clubs in Pittsburgh PA, is he a Croat lol!

    Lol what a Democracy you simpletons have set up in Croatia, you fools get to choose which party of Titoljubs you want ruling Croatia lol, HDZ, SDP or lol Skoro!

    I can see why you focus on France instead of your tourist resort country lol!

    Point is, Kukoc is correct in not wanting to mix with the messed up Croatian community.



  16. Anonymous says:

    Croatia is Jewish land now, you Croats should just leave already, or we will send in our Mohammedan servants to breed you out, one way or another you Croats are finished!





  17. Anonymous says:

    @Canuckcro

    I don’t know about Kukoc and Radja, but I know that Drazen was a Catholic and that’s why he is one of us.





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